Scott Regains Control at TPC

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PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. -- Australia's Adam Scott posted a 3-under 69 on Saturday to jump into the third-round lead of the Players Championship. He stands at 10-under-par 206 and owns a two-shot lead over Frank Lickliter and overnight co-leader Kevin Sutherland.
 
Lickliter birdied four of his last five holes en route to a 4-under 68 while Sutherland bogeyed his last to shoot a 1-over-par 73 at the TPC at Sawgrass.
 
There are some of the top names in golf tied for fourth place at 7-under par. Kenny Perry (69), Phil Mickelson (70), Ernie Els (72), Paul Stankowski (66) and the other leader midway through the championship, Jerry Kelly (74) are knotted at 209.
 
Tiger Woods was flirting with the cut line on Friday but ultimately made his 120th consecutive weekend. His play improved dramatically on Saturday despite a shaky finish.
 
He carded a 4-under 68 thanks to eight birdies and four bogeys and sits in a tie for 16th at minus-4.
 
'Overall I played really well today,' said Woods, who won this event in 2001. 'I hit so many good golf shots. Things are starting to come together, and each and every day is starting to get a little better.'
 
Woods mixed five birdies and a bogey on the front side, capped off by a chip-in birdie at the ninth. He collected three more birdies and a bogey through 16 holes but things fell apart for the top player in the game.
 
At the famed 17th, Woods barely made it over the water and left with bogey. On the final hole, Woods sprayed his approach into the grandstands and picked up his second bogey in as many holes.
 
'I had a not-so-good finish,' said Woods.
 
If Woods is to visit the winner's circle on Sunday he will have to erase Scott's six-shot margin.
 
Scott, the first-round leader whose swing is often compared to Woods', began the third round two behind Sutherland and Kelly. Things got off to a rocky start for Scott as he bogeyed No. 1 and thanks to a birdie by Kelly, fell four off the pace.
 
'It took me a few holes to get used to the greens,' said Scott. 'It was a bit of a shock. They were good in the end. It got me ready to go for the rest of the round.'
 
Scott clawed back in with a birdie at the sixth but a run at the start of his back nine sent him to the top of the leaderboard.
 
He birdied the par-4 10th, then two-putted from 40 feet at the par-5 11th to match Sutherland in first. Scott took the lead at the next hole when his approach stopped three feet from the hole.
 
Scott had a great look at a fourth birdie in a row at 14 but his seven-footer lipped out. He was not able to reach the green in three at the par-5 16th and his fourth ran nine feet past the cup. Scott drained the big par save and it was off to one of the most daunting par-3s on tour.
 
Scott hit a pitching-wedge to 18 feet at 17 but missed the putt. He had a shorter putt for birdie at the closing hole but that putt stayed above ground.
 
The young Australian has won five times worldwide, including last year's Deutsche Bank Championship on the PGA Tour. In all five of those victories, Scott has held at least a share of the 54-hole lead.
 
'Maybe it's experience from the past,' said Scott, looking for an explanation for his front-running success. 'I'm far from winning this event. I've got a whole leaderboard full of the best players in the world right behind me.'
 
Lickliter, whose home course is the Stadium Course at Sawgrass, was only even-par through 13 holes but the two-time winner on tour caught fire down the stretch.
 
He birdied the 14th and par-5 16th. At 17, Lickliter hit a 9-iron to 12 feet to set up birdie. His approach at the last stopped inches from the cup and the tap-in birdie gave him a chance at the biggest win of his PGA Tour career.
 
'Walking to the 16th tee, I was just kind of thinking about how many times I've birdied the last three holes just playing out here and it put me in that not-forcing-it mode, and it just kind of relaxed me,' said Lickliter. 'I'm going to go out and do what has got me to this point.'
 
Sutherland was even on his round and one back of Scott when things unraveled at 16. His third came to rest in a sand-filled divot and after much deliberation with rules officials, he was told he could not ground his club in a large clump of sand.
 
His shot from 106 yards came up short of the green in another bad lie. Sutherland stabbed at his fourth and the ball ran through the green onto the fringe. He made bogey to fall two back of Scott.
 
Sutherland rebounded nicely from the bad break at 16 with a 25-foot birdie putt at the 17th. His drive at 18 landed in the right rough and he was forced to lay up with his second at the par-four hole. Sutherland's third landed 17 feet from the hole and he missed the putt to lose sole possession of second place.
 
When Sutherland signed his card after the round, he was told that he received a bad call on the ruling. He should have been able to ground his club but Sutherland was philosophical about the incorrect decision.
 
'I was told I couldn't improve my lie. I kept asking if I can ground my club and they kept saying, 'no you can't do it,'' said Sutherland. 'It's the way it goes. I guess I wasn't able to articulate what I wanted in the ruling.'
 
Craig Parry, the winner of the Ford Championship at Doral earlier this month, fired the lowest round of the day on Saturday with an 8-under 64. He is tied for ninth with Duffy Waldorf (71) and Vijay Singh (72). The trio is knotted at minus-6.
 
Davis Love III, the 2003 champion, shot a 2-under 70 and is tied for 30th at 1-under par. John Daly struggled to a 4-over 76 and is part of a group in 66th at 2-over-par 218.
 
Related links:
  • Leaderboard - The Players Championship

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