Wind, scores soar at PGA

Leonard leads

Familiar with weather, Texan separates himself from pack to go up 3

Funk falls into third place

Only 3 rounds under par

Woods sits five shots back

August 18, 2002|By Don Markus | Don Markus,SUN STAFF

CHASKA, Minn. - Trying to figure out who was going to emerge from yesterday's windblown third round of the 84th PGA Championship at Hazeltine National Club was not difficult.

Whoever could negotiate the 35-mph winds that whipped around the rained-soaked, 7,360-yard course with their nerves and their scores intact probably would have a chance to win the tournament today.

A player who spent his entire life carving out a career in one of the windiest places in the country - Texas - held up the best. Justin Leonard shot a 3-under-par 69 to break away from a pack of five second-round co-leaders.

At 9-under 207, Leonard leads transplanted Texan Rich Beem by three strokes. Former University of Maryland golf coach Fred Funk is four strokes behind, and two-time PGA champion Tiger Woods and Mark Calcavecchia are five shots back. Woods shot an even-par 72.

Using a different swing and a different caddie than he had when he won the 1997 British Open at Royal Troon, Leonard, 30, showed his wizardry in the wind by making successive birdies on the par-5 15th and par-4 16th holes.

"I feel like I enjoy playing in difficult conditions," said Leonard, who grew up and still lives in Dallas. "The golf course today played extremely difficult. I looked forward to that."

Leonard was as many as two strokes behind Beem early in the round - Beem had birdied the par-4 opening hole to move to 7-under and Leonard bogeyed the par-4 fifth - before making his move.

After clawing his way back into a tie for the lead with birdies on the par-5 seventh hole and par-4 10th hole, Leonard again found himself a shot behind when Beem birdied the par-5 11th.

Beem then bogeyed the par-4 14th, when he hit his tee shot near the root of a tree right of the fairway.

"I really hit it solid until No. 14, and then I really had kind of the wrong club," said Beem, who also bogeyed the par-3 17th to finish with an even-par 72. "That was really my first bad swing of the day."

It opened the door for Leonard, who made a birdie on the par-5 15th from five feet and then another on the par-4 16th after hitting his approach on the course's most difficult hole to within two feet of the cup.

Leonard's lead then widened.

Woods, after saving par from 25 feet on the 16th hole and making a terrific recovery from near the hospitality tents to the left of the 18th fairway, failed to get up and down for par from the short rough.

Funk, after pulling back to 6-under with a birdie on the 15th hole, three-putted for bogey from about 20 feet on the par-3 17th hole. Beem dropped a shot there and Calcavecchia bogeyed the par-4 18th hole.

Asked if the three-shot lead he finished with was a bit surprising, Leonard said: "I am a little bit surprised. But again, I'm a little bit surprised because I was able to shoot 3-under, just because of the difficulty of the golf course and how it was playing. I'm obviously happy about it."

Leonard's round was only one of three under par yesterday, when the average score ballooned to 75.87, the highest for a third round in the tournament's history.

Among those who saw their chance at victory slip away was Retief Goosen of South Africa. The 2001 U.S. Open champion began the day tied for the lead at 6-under and finished 10 shots behind Leonard after netting a 7-over 79.

"It's one of those windy days, when the wind gets the ball like got Tiger's at Muirfield," Goosen said, recalling the third round at last month's British Open when Woods shot an 81. "Maybe I can shoot 60 tomorrow."

Woods won't have to go that low to win his third major of the year and the ninth of his legendary career, but the world's No. 1 player will have to make a few more putts and hit a few less stray shots than he has the past three days.

After making an unbelievable birdie out of fairway bunker on the par-4 18th hole to finish the second round and get to 4-under, Woods made 10 straight pars to start the third round. He then birdied the par-5 11th.

But he got no closer. While he made a career as an amateur at final-round comebacks, and has done it as a pro as well, Woods has never come from behind in the last round of his major championship wins.

"The challenge of it? All I have to do is just play well, make putts," said Woods, who trails Leonard by the same number of shots that Leonard trailed Jesper Parnevik in the final round of the 1997 British Open.

Woods knows that Leonard will be difficult to catch, if the conditions remain tough.

"Justin is a great player, and he's won some pretty big tournaments on tough courses," said Woods, looking to win three majors in the same year for the second time in his career. "This is no exception. This is a tough track and the wind blowing like this, it kind of suits him. He's a fighter."

Leonard knows what he did on a breezy afternoon in Scotland five years ago, and he also knows that two of his seven PGA Tour victories - at the 1997 Kemper Open and the 1998 Players Championship - came when he made up five shots on the final day to win.

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