American Leads South of the Border


2007 Mayakoba Golf ClassicPLAYA DEL CARMEN, Mxico -- As the birdies piled up and his name crept up the scoreboard, Esteban Toledo saw them coming.
They werent just fans. They were his people.
The only Mexican left in the Mayakoba Golf Classic, Toledo embraced the attention of his countrymen and gave them plenty more to cheer. He chipped in from about 25 yards for an eagle on No. 13, then closed with a birdie on 18' seemingly pushed the final few inches by cries of Llega! Llega!'Get there!
Toledos 7-under 63 lifted him into fifth place. At 8-under 202, he was seven strokes behind Brian Gay going into the final round of the PGA TOURs second visit south of the border.
Tomorrow Im going to come out strong, Toledo said. I have the people behind me. I want to win. I know I can do it.
Gay birdied his last three holes and five of the last six for a 62. At 15-under 205, he was five ahead of Steve Marino. Matt Kuchar and John Merrick were tied for third at 201.
Merrick, the leader after each of the first two rounds, went head-to-head with Gay in the final group. They were pulling away from the pack together, then Merrick made his first bogey of the tournament. Gay followed with birdies on six of the last nine holes, putting him in position for his first career win on the PGA TOUR.
Between Toledos stirring round and Gays tremendous close, Roland Thatcher polished off the lowest round of the tournament, a 61 that broke the course record set by Fred Funk en route to winning the inaugural event last year. Thatcher was in a group tied for ninth at 205.
Scores were much lower Saturday thanks to softer breezes off the Caribbean Sea. Strong gusts Friday produced the highest stroke average in relation to par of any round on the PGA TOUR this year. Another indication of the difference: Parasailers and windsurfers were again visible over the treetops, as even they found the wind too stiff Friday.
Toledo was part of the first-ever event in his homeland last February, but didnt give the locals too many thrills. After shooting a 66 in the opening round, he never broke par again, finishing in a tie for 41st. (Gay was among those he tied.)
Toledo shot 70 and 69 the first two rounds this year. Tied for 13th when his round began, his surge began with birdies on the first, fourth and sixth holes.
Slowed by a bogey on No. 8, he rebounded with a pair of birdies. Thats about the time his gallery started to grow.
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