Lee leads, but Lefty’s not out of it
England’s Lee Westwood could on Sunday make it three European victories in a row at golf’s richest event.
After 108 starts in America since his one and only win 12 years ago Lee Westwood could on Sunday make it three European victories in a row at golf’s richest event.
The world number four, trying to follow Sergio Garcia and Henrik Stenson, goes into the final round of the £6.2million Players Championship at Sawgrass in Florida one ahead of Australian Robert Allenby.
That was the advantage he held at halfway, but it was far from smooth sailing for the Worksop 37-year-old before he handed in a two under par 70.
First American Heath Slocum moved into a two-shot lead before bogeying the 13th and 15th and horribly dumping his tee shot into the water at the near island green short 17th.
Just before that Allenby had made it a three-way tie thanks to a 14-foot eagle putt at the long 16th and a 12-footer on the dangerous next.
But Westwood – third, third and second in the last three major championships – kept his cool and with a birdie at the 523-yard 16th and two closing pars he posted a 14 under aggregate.
Allenby was round in 67 to take over as closest challenger, while one further back are Italian Francesco Molinari and two more Americans in Ben Crane and US Open champion Lucas Glover.
Westwood did not hesitate to admit that it had been a tough day for him.
“First and foremost I thought it was quite tricky out there”.
“The greens had firmed up and were glassy, which was quite a scary thing, but overall I was pleased with the day.
“I felt pretty confident all day, but I was surprised how much harder the course was.
“Obviously I’d love to win a major, but all you do is try your hardest and I have a lot of experience from what happened at the (2008) US Open, The Open last year and then The Masters.
“Once again I’m in with a chance. You don’t expect to win – you hope to win – but I do expect to play well.”
He might have to.
There is still a chance that Phil Mickelson will deny Westwood – just as he did at the Masters a month ago – and that the left-hander will take the world number one spot after 244 weeks at second.
Mickelson moved into joint 11th with a 66 and is five behind – just as Stenson was before charging through to win by four 12 months ago.
To go top of the rankings for the first time in his life Mickelson has to win and Tiger Woods has to be outside the top five.
That latter half of the equation seems a given.
A bogey-bogey finish for 71 left Woods down in 45th spot – and a young boy took the chance on receiving Mickelson’s autograph to point out the situation.
“Tiger, say so long to number one – kiss it goodbye,” he said as Woods walked by to hand in his scorecard.
Mickelson, nine behind at halfway, had earlier said: “I felt like things started to click a little bit (today) and I think I’ve got one more low round in me.
“I just hope that it will be enough, that I’ll be within striking distance.”
Thanks to what happened to Slocum he is.
Asked about the number one ranking chase, however, he replied: “I don’t know why you keep asking about that.
“I mean, we’re right in the middle of a tournament here and that’s the last thing on my mind right now.
“I’m trying to get ready for tomorrow’s round and you keep changing the subject.”
Woods, in the meantime, had said of his round: “I felt close to putting it together, but couldn’t get a run going.”
He is dead last in driving distance for the week and on that added: “I’m trying to hit the ball low and I’m actually so steep on it that I’m popping it up.”
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