Sunday, February 16, 2003
Tiger, Mickelson go one-on-one today
Woods leads by 2 strokes in Buick
The Associated Press
SAN DIEGO - The return of Tiger Woods is shaping up to be a real treat. Not only is he leading the Buick Invitational, he gets to spend the final round with Phil Mickelson trying to chase him down.
With a dazzling array of shots and a diet of crucial pars on the back nine, Woods ended an entertaining day by hitting into a corporate tent and still making birdie for a 4-under 68, giving him a one-stroke lead over Brad Faxon.
"I'm excited about even having a chance after taking off as much time as I did," said Woods, who was at 12-under 204.
In his first tournament since Dec.12 surgery on his left knee, Woods didn't waste any time getting back into a familiar position. The next test is whether he can hold the lead, something he does better than anyone.
Woods is 26-2 on the PGA Tour when he has at least a share of the 54-hole lead, and the last one to beat him from behind was - guess who? - Mickelson, in the 2000 Tour Championship at East Lake.
Mickelson, the hometown favorite and a chief rival to Woods, had a 69 by making a 15-foot birdie putt on the final hole, knowing what was on the line.
"I was thinking on that putt on 18, I would love to get into that last group," said Mickelson, who was two strokes behind at 206, along with Steven Alker.
Television ratings are 113 percent higher when Woods is in contention. Add to that a rivalry that got even more intense last week when Mickelson said in a magazine interview that Woods plays with "inferior" equipment and is the only player good enough to overcome it.
JOHNNIE WALKER CLASSIC: Ernie Els all but wrapped up his fourth victory of the year, shooting an 8-under 64 to stretch his lead to nine strokes in Perth, Australia.
Els had a 23-under 193 total on the Lake Karrinyup course to break the European tour's 54-hole record of 194 set by Argentina's Vicente Fernandez in the 1975 Benson & Hedges Festival.
The South African star also shot a 64 on Thursday and had a 65 Friday. He birdied the first hole Saturday and eagled the third, his third eagle of the week. He finished with seven birdies and a bogey on the par-5 15th, the hole he eagled the first two days.
"I had a nice day again," Els said.
ACE GROUP CLASSIC: Dave Barr, who won last week's Champions Tour event, fired a 7-under 65 and holds a one-shot lead over Jay Overton and first-round leader Vicente Fernandez through two rounds at The Club at Twin Eagles.
Barr, who is at 11-under 133, uses a 1971 putter given to him in college and plays with a 10-finger grip. He has an old set of irons that includes a 3- and 5-iron from 1985. He's self-taught and said he has had one lesson, and it was for putting.
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