PEBBLE BEACH (California): Davis Love made sure he won't have to come from behind to win this time along the Monterey Peninsula.
Love shot his second straight five-under-par 67 on Saturday to grab a two-stroke lead after three rounds of the Pebble Beach National Pro-Am.
Two years ago at this tournament, Love used a spectacular front nine and fired a final-round 63 to erase a seven-shot deficit and end a two-year victory drought on the PGA Tour.
“Obviously, you don't have to go out (Sunday) and shoot a course record,” said Love, who has a 54-hole score of 10-under 206.
Canadian lefthander Mike Weir, former Player of the Year Tom Lehman and Australian rookie Rod Pampling are tied for second at 208. Coming off a victory at last week's Bob Hope Classic, Weir matched Love's 67 as he tries to join Ernie Els as two-time winners in the first five weeks of the season.
“I played outstanding today, I played really well,” Weir said. “I played just as well on the back nine. The score didn't indicate that, but I struck it just as good or better on the back nine. I hit it almost straight on the pin every time.”
A four-under 68 left Rocco Mediate four shots off the pace at 209. Six players are another stroke back, including second-round leader Jim Furyk, who stumbled to a 1-over 73 at the Pebble Beach Golf Links.
Love started on the 10th tee at the Spyglass Hill Golf Club and birdied three of his first five holes. But he three-putted from 25 feet for bogey at the 121-yard 15th hole and missed a 15-footer for par at No. 17 to make the turn at six-under.
Winless since his victory here two years ago, Love played mistake-free on the front nine. He made birdie putts of 20 and 10 feet at the first and third holes, respectively, then hit a three-iron within 12 feet to set up his second eagle of the tournament.
While he likes his position compared to 2001, Love knows he can't coast to his 15th career title.
“It's always good to have a two-stroke lead, but like I said, it's firm and fast and playing tricky,” he said. “It's like a US Open. You still have to go out and play hard. Just like any tournament, two strokes is two strokes - it's a birdie and a bogey.”
Weir knows all about quick turnarounds after birdying his final three holes last week to win in the California desert.
“I think it will be tough for someone to come from any more than five back (tomorrow),” he said. “I think if you are within five, you have a shot.”
This week, Weir has been paired with hockey legend Wayne Gretzky, who said he tried to stay out of the way of his partner.
“He wasn't in the way at all by any stretch of the imagination,” said Weir, a friend of Mighty Ducks of Anaheim center Adam Oates. “He is good in front of big crowds. That's the type of gamer he is.”
Gretzky certainly was not in the way on the front nine, where Weir shot a 7-under 29 that featured eagles on the second and sixth holes. But an eight-foot putt at the 106-yard seventh hole turned out to be his last birdie as Weir closed wwith 10 pars and two bogeys.
Like Love, Lehman is hoping to end a prolonged drought here. Winless since the 2000 Phoenix Open, the 1996 Player of the Year had a largely uneventful round at Spyglass with three birdies and a bogey.– AFP