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Players Try to Close Tigers Open Lead

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FARMIGNDALE, N.Y. -- The rain finally subsided early Saturday morning, leaving players with sloshed fairways, soggy sand and spongy greens to deal with in round three of the 102nd U.S. Open.
 
Still, even with the temperature not yet exceeding 60 degrees, its a far better situation than that of Friday.
 
Rain pelted players throughout their second rounds, never relenting, and forcing many to wonder why the siren never sounded to halt play.
 
'We would have stopped in most tournaments,' commented Davis Love III, who shot 1-over 71 to finish at 2-over-par. 'They could have stopped and nobody would have complained, let's put it that way.'
 
Fairways were flooded, squeegees were brought in to clear putting lines, mud encased Footjoys. It was a nasty scene, but one that officials felt the players could handle.
 
If the golf course is playable, and ladies and gentlemen, by that, we mean if the greens are playable, then we can play, said USGA Director of Rules and Competition Tom Meeks.
 
With rain a possibility both Saturday and Sunday, Meeks said he did everything Friday to stay on schedule. Many in the field of 155 agreed with Loves assessment that at most tour stops play would have been stopped. But Sergio Garcia took it a bit further.
 
If Tiger Woods had been out there, I think it would have been called,' Garcia accused.
 
Responded Meeks: I can assure you thats not true.
 
Woods teed off Friday morning, and under the same rain as Garcia shot 2-under-par 68 on the Black Course. He was the only player from the early groups to post an under-par score, and one of only four to shoot in the 60s for the day ' the other three sub-par scores came in the afternoon, when Sergio shot 74.
 
Thanks to his remarkable round ' one that left many in the field in awe ' Tiger takes a three-shot lead, at 5-under 135, into the weekend at Bethpage State Park. Irelands Padraig Harrington is the only other player in red numbers, having matched Woods 68 in the afternoon.
 
Garcia, meanwhile, is seven back, at 2-over. He experienced a bitter day all around Friday. Never looking comfortable ' he re-gripped his club nearly 30 times on his second shot of the round ' the 22-year-old Spaniard slammed his irons, tossed his putter and fought with fans.
 
The vocal, blue-collar New York crowd jeered Garcia on his re-gripping tick. It angered him so much that cameras caught him flipping an obscene gesture ' the middle finger ' to the count-happy crowd.
 
'The people have to realize that we're trying as hard as we can out there, and sometimes they make some stupid comments. There was the finger,' said Garcia. 'You can't control them, unfortunately, and there's going to be people like that everywhere in the whole world; if not, the world would be too perfect.'
 
Perfect may describe how players are going to have to perform to catch Woods. His victory gauge is approaching the red zone, reminding many of his 15-shot victory in the 2000 Open at Pebble Beach.
 
He may win by 20 this time, quipped Jesper Parnevik.
 
Friday, he wasnt accurate, but he was determined. He missed five fairways and six greens, but saved par from everywhere imaginable. And, for the second straight day, he concluded his round with a 20-foot birdie.
 
Tigers third round officially gets underway at 2:50 PM ET, when he will tee off alongside Harrington.
 
Many inside and outside the ropes have already crowned Woods Open King ' but not the Irishman.
 
Im really not interested in what hes going to do. Im interested in what Im going to do, he said. Im not going to intimidate him on the tee box (Saturday), thats for sure.
 
Harrington, a two-time European Ryder Cupper, has three career top-5 finishes in major championships. He tied for fifth in the 1997 British Open; tied for fifth in the 2000 U.S. Open (won by Woods); and tied for fifth in this years Masters Tournament (also won by Woods).
 
This will be the second time Harrington and Woods have played in the same twosome in a major. They first did so in the final round of last years Open ' when neither was in contention.
 
There can be a distraction factor. But Ive seen it before, said the three-time European Tour winner. There shouldnt be too much I wont expect (Saturday), but, obviously, that doesnt mean its easy to handle.
 
But if I play well with him, Ill play with him for two days.
 
Full-field scores from the 102nd U.S. Open