Toms Takes Charge in Charlotte

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- David Toms fired a 6-under 66 on Saturday to jump into the lead after the third round of the Wachovia Championship. Toms is 11-under-par 205 through three rounds and holds a five-stroke lead.
 
Kirk Triplett, who carded a 5-under 67 Saturday, is tied for second with Robert Gamez and J.P. Hayes. That trio stands at 6-under-par 210.
 
Toms' 66 was the round of the day. He opened with a birdie at the par-4 first. The 2001 PGA Championship winner then drained back-to-back birdies from the sixth to climb into the lead at 8-under. He closed the front side with a pair of pars for a 3-under 33.
 
He started the back side at Quail Hollow Golf Club in style. Toms' second shot to the par-5 came up just short. He hit his pitch shot right at the cup, it seemed as though it would be too hard, but the ball hit the pin and dropped in the cup for eagle to get him to minus-10.
 
'When I was on the range, I was thinking about shooting 2- or 3-under, just like the first two days,' Toms said. 'But that eagle kind of got me going.'
 
Toms however bogeyed the next after hitting his second shot long and left. He was unable to get up-and-down and dropped back to 9-under. Toms then ran off three straight pars to maintain his lead.
 
Toms, a seven-time winner on tour, then two-putted for birdie at the 15th to climb back to minus-10. At the next hole, Toms' drive found a fairway bunker. He then calmly blasted his second shot within eight feet of the cup and drained the birdie putt for a four-shot lead.
 
He two-putted from 70 feet out at the par-4 17th to maintained a streak of no three putts on the week. After a par on 18, Toms went to the clubhouse leading by five.
 
'That surprises me,' said Toms, when told of his large lead. 'I guess it means the guys behind me weren't playing that well.'
 
Toms, who hasn't won in his last 41 tournaments, does have success holding the lead. He has held the lead six times entering the final round and gone on to win four of those tournaments.
 
'It's been a long time for me,' said Toms, whose last win came at the 2001 Michelob Championship. 'For guys who don't quite have the ability of Tiger Woods, Ernie Els or Phil Mickelson, it isn't easy. I can't be off and win golf tournaments.'
 
Triplett's 67 tied two others for the second-best round of the day. He parred just two holes en route to a front-nine 34. Triplett, who will be paired with Toms on Sunday, opened with a bogey, but came right back to birdie two consecutive holes.
 
After a par at the fourth, Triplett eagled the par-5 fifth, but faltered with a bogey at the next. He closed the front side with birdies on Nos. 7 and 9.
 
On the back nine, Triplett birdied the 12th and 15th, but mixed in a bogey at 14 to grab a share of second place.
 
'I was a little more aggressive with my putting and iron shots today,' said Triplett. 'I hit a lot of good shots, made a few putts and missed a few, too.'
 
Gamez had four birdies and three bogeys in a round of 71. Hayes, who at one point was within four shots of the lead, bogeyed the last to drop back into a second place tie. He had three bogeys and three birdies for an even-par round of 72.
 
Fred Funk, Brent Geiberger, Charles Howell III, Spike McRoy and Nick Price, who held at least a share of the lead after the first two rounds, are tied for fifth place at 5-under-par 211. Howell seemed to be on pace to join Toms in the final pairing Sunday, but he bogeyed the 16th and 17th. Those were his first bogeys of the tournament.
 
Fred Couples, who has battled a bad back throughout his career, struggled with it again Saturday. After reading his putt on the 10th green, Couples nearly buckled to his knees as he tried to stand up straight. He battled through the pain, but managed just a 2-over 74. He shares 10th place with six other players at 4-under-par 212.
 
'I'm walking and swinging, but it's like a flinch at every shot,' said Couples. 'I hit a couple of very good shots, but most of them were pull-hooks. I need to go rest, then play much better and move my way back up.'
 
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