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Notes Tiger Oh-So-Close

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. -- The ball made a terrible thud, ricocheting off the grandstand and into the hands of a lucky fan watching the action on the 18th hole.
That was part of a bogey-bogey finish in The Players Championship that turned what could have been a great round into one that was just good by Tiger Woods standards. Woods shot a 4-under 68 to finish at 4 under through three rounds, six strokes behind leader Adam Scott.
I had a not-so-good finish, but overall I played really well today, Woods said. All the hard work was starting to pay off.
Woods pulled as close as three shots early in his round ' quite a feat considering he shot 3 over on Thursday and was in danger of missing the cut.
On Saturday, he looked every bit like the worlds best player at times, especially on 9, where he chipped in from the rough for birdie, and offered up a little fist pump, the likes of which havent been seen in a while.
He went out in 32 and stayed hot early on the back nine. On No. 12, he knocked an approach shot to 2 feet for birdie, and on the par-3 13th, he hit his tee shot to 6 feet, then converted the putt and pumped his fist again.
But on No. 17, Woods teed off into the rough on the edge of the island. And on 18, he felt a gust of wind in his backswing and didnt hit the approach shot the way he should have.
I should have just backed off the shot, Woods said.
He didnt, and now his climb on Sunday will be that much harder.
Before the leaders had even made it to the course, Craig Parry was out there becoming one of them.
Helped by two eagles, Parry shot an 8-under-par 64, one stroke off the course record. He finished his round at 10:45 AM, and stood at 6 under, just three strokes out of the lead at the time. When the day was over, more than seven hours later, Parry was just four off the lead, tied for ninth.
Two eagles in one round, its amazing, Parry said. Normally, I get two eagles in one year, and Ive had three already.
The third eagle he spoke of could go down as the shot of the year; it was the 176-yard fairway shot he holed out in sudden death three weeks ago to win the Ford Championship at Doral.
By those standards, Parrys latest eagles were routine. Taking advantage of calm conditions in his morning round, he hit his second shot to 5 feet on the par-5 11th and made the putt. On the par-5 16th, he hit his approach to 18 feet and converted there, too.
The course record of 63 is held by Fred Couples (1992) and Greg Norman (1994). The Sharks four-round score of 264 was so low, it caused the tour to make big changes and toughen up the Stadium Course.
Darn Rules!
Second-round co-leader Kevin Sutherland fell victim to a difficult ruling on the 16th hole.
His second shot landed in front of a divot that had been filled past the top with sand. Concerned that he would improve his lie by grounding the club behind the ball, and in the sand, Sutherland asked for a ruling.
Rules officials told him not to ground the club. He didnt and wound up hitting a bad shot that didnt make the green. He made bogey on the third-easiest hole on the course, and wound up two strokes off the lead.
But according to rule 13.2, Sutherland could have lightly grounded the club, so long as he didnt improve his lie. If he had improved his lie, it would have been a two-stroke penalty, PGA Tour rules official Mark Russell said.
I didnt know that rule, Sutherland said. Obviously, they didnt know it either. It would have been nice to know at the time.
Russell conceded Sutherland was never told he could lightly ground the club. Asked if Sutherland had a legitimate beef with the ruling, Russell said: A small one. He does. But what were trying to do there is protect him. Theres a fine line there of what you can do without being penalized.
Heckling returned to the PGA Tour when a fan shouted as Jerry Kelly was at the top of his swing on the 18th tee.
He yelled, Noonan! from Caddyshack. It was right in his swing, said Kevin Sutherland, paired with Kelly in the final group of the third round. We dont know who it was, but its inappropriate.
Last month, a fan kept saying, No Love, as Davis Love III stepped to his ball during the final round of the Match Play Championship. Love refused to continue the match until the fan was removed.
Kelly, who has one of the most fiery personalities on tour, glared at the direction of the voice and let his caddie try to find the heckler. Kelly then took his ball off the tee, put his driver back in the bag and started his process over.
He wound up hitting a good drive and making par for a 74, leaving him three shots off the lead.
You can say anything you want after were done, Sutherland said. But you do it in someones swing, thats against the etiquette of the game.
Easy Does It
How tough is the Stadium Course? So tough that even swashbuckling Phil Mickelson feels hes forced to play it conservatively.
Mickelson said the thing he was proudest about during his round of 2-under 70 was his decision to take bogeys in bad situations and not try to make a hero shot to save par.
There were three or four times where I made bogey, I accepted it and moved on, he said of the round that included four bogeys, four birdies and an eagle.
But golf fans, take heart. Mickelson said this is not the start of an evolution toward a more conservative game.
Id love to try to save pars, but I dont have the shots to get close under these conditions, he said. I cant stand accepting bogeys. Its something I hate to do, but its better than the alternative.
Only four balls went into the water surrounding No. 17 on Saturday. It would have been five had Matt Gogel not gotten the bounce of the day, when his tee shot hit smack on top of a railroad tie that surrounds the island and bounced onto the green. Gogel made par. ...John Dalys shot at the Masters is no longer in his hands. Daly needed to finish 19th or better to qualify, but shot 76 to fall into a tie for 66th place. He can still get in the Masters by finishing in the top 10 on the PGA Tour money list (hes No. 9), but nine of the top 11 players on the leaderboard would move ahead of him with a victory; and four of those can jump ahead by finishing second. ...Also hurting his chances at qualifying for the Masters was Loren Roberts, who shot a 43 on the back and stood at 222, in second-to-last place.
Related links:
  • Leaderboard - The Players Championship

  • Full Coverage - The Players Championship

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