Added At: 2010-05-09 11:12 PM
Last Updated At: 2010-05-10 11:12 PM
Agence France Presse
PONTE VEDRA BEACH: England’s Lee Westwood ended the third round on Saturday as he started it, with a one-stroke lead at the Players Championship.
Westwood carded a steady 70 to post a 14-under-par 202 total. Australian Robert Allenby stormed home with a late rush, picking up three strokes in the final three holes to jump into second place on 13-under after a 67.
Italian Francesco Molinari and Americans Lucas Glover and Ben Crane were equal third on 12-under with Slocum among a group another shot back. US veteran Slocum led after 12 holes, but dropped four strokes over the final six holes, including a double bogey at the par-three 17th, where his tee shot came up short in the water.
Masters champion Phil Mickelson fired a 66 to give himself a chance, five shots behind, while Tiger Woods surrendered any chance of winning with a 71 to fall 10 back. Mickelson would claim the world No 1 ranking from Woods with a victory and Woods, who now shared 45th, failing to crack the top five.
Woods struggled in his comeback after a sex scandal and could see his five-year rankings reign ended by Phil Mickelson. Woods finished with back-to-back bogeys at the $9.5 million US PGA event as Mickelson charged into contention for the victory he needs to take over the top spot. If Masters champion Mickelson wins the $1.71 million top prize and Woods finishes outside the top five, the 39-year-old US left-hander would move past Woods into the top ranking for the first time in his career.
Woods, a 14-time major champion chasing the record 18 won by Jack Nicklaus, is playing only his third event since ending a five-month layoff at the Masters last month after admitting to cheating on wife Elin with multiple mistresses.
“I felt like things started to click a little bit and I think I’ve got one more low round in me,” Mickelson said. “I just hope that it will be enough.” Woods finished 54 holes in a share of 45th on four-under par 212 but by hitting only six of 14 fairways and just 12 of 18 greens in regulation, showed that he is far from the dominating figure who has ruled golf for years.
After a disappointing par at the par-five 16th, Woods three-putted the par-three 17th before leaking his approach shot into the right rough at the par-four 18th. “I need so much help today and tomorrow and it doesn’t look like that’s probably going to be the case. There are too many guys out there,”said Woods.
Asked about his chances of overtaking Woods for No 1, Mickelson made it clear he was more concerned about his chances of winning the Players for the second time in his career. “I don’t know why you keep asking about that,” Mickelson said. “We’re right in the middle of a tournament here. That’s the last thing on my mind right now. I’m trying to get ready for fina round, get in striking distance, and you keep changing the subject.”
Those who doubt “Lefty” can win need only look at Swede Henrik Stenson last year, who matched Justin Leonard’s record last-round rally by coming back from five strokes on the last day to win. “We’ve seen for multiple years now leaders fall back,” Mickelson. Mickelson was one stroke off the pace entering the last round in 2007 when he rallied to win. In all, 17 of the past 28 Players winners have come from behind on the last day to win.