Late Mistake Narrows Els Lead

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KAPALUA, Hawaii -- For the most part Saturday it appeared as if history would be Ernie Els lone opponent in the final round of the Mercedes Championships.
 
But a mental mistake by Els late in the day combined with a record round by K.J. Choi means there may again be a bit of drama come Sunday.
 
Leading by five shots, Els made double bogey on par-4 17th and then missed a 10-foot birdie putt at the 18th ' it was the first time this week he failed to post a red number on a par-5.
 
Im still a little bit hot about that, Els said of his finish.
 
Choi, on the other hand, converted a short birdie at the last to set a new course record with an 11-under-par 62. That got him to 23-under for the tournament, and within two of the lead.
 
He felt very good coming into the round, Chois interpreter said. As the round progressed, he just felt better and better and more comfortable.
 
Els disappointing finish was still enough to set a new 54-hole tournament scoring record. His 25-under total was four shots better than the mark set by David Duval in 1999.
 
He also tied what is believed to be the PGA Tours 54-hole scoring record in relation to par. Gay Brewer was 25-under through three rounds of the 1967 Pensacola Open.
 
The Big Easy was making it look just that for the better part of his third round. He holed a flop shot for his fourth eagle of the week at the short par-4 14th, and then made birdie at 15 and 16 to get to 27-under.
 
But at the 17th, after discussing the issue with his caddie, Els talked himself out of using a driver ' which he had used the first two rounds ' and opted for a 3-wood.
 
Tried to hit it a little bit hard and pulled it left. Just basically played the hole bad, he explained.
 
His ball landed in the knee-high rough in the hazard. He took a drop and eventually missed a six-foot putt for bogey.
 
He followed by failing to get up and down at the last.
 
Only a two-shot lead now. It could have been four or five shots, Els said. It makes me focus differently tomorrow. I dont have to protect (the lead). I can go out there and be aggressive. Its probably going to be a shoot-out tomorrow.
 
Choi, who won twice on tour a year ago to qualify for this event, did everything in his power to keep Els in reach.
 
He made nine birdies and one eagle in bettering the old Plantation Course record by a stroke.
 
He feels very happy to be playing with Ernie because Ernie is one of the players that hes really looked up to, Chois interpreter said of the final-round pairing.
 
Retief Goosen is alone in third place after a 66. But at 18-under, hes a full seven shots off the lead, making it, in all likelihood, a two-man tournament.
 
If its blowing, somebody will have to really play well. If its not blowing, they still have to play well, Els said on the possibility of someone from the pack catching the final twosome.
 
The wind hasn't been a factor through three rounds.
 
Els is five shots from breaking the 72-hole tour record in relation to par. Joe Durant was 29-under through four rounds of the 2001 Bob Hope, which is a 90-hole event.
 
Because the course plays to a par 73, Els wasnt able to break the tours 54-hole aggregate scoring record. His 192 total is three shots higher than that of John Cook in the 1996 FedEx St. Jude Classic and Mark Calcavecchia in the 2001 Phoenix Open.
 
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