January 28, 2006

Garcia, Woods, Mickelson set for Buick shootout

By Mark Lamport-Stokes

SAN DIEGO (Reuters) - Sergio Garcia and Rod Pampling shared
a one-shot lead after the Buick Invitational third round on
Saturday with three-time champions Tiger Woods and Phil
Mickelson snapping at their heels.

Spaniard Garcia and Australian Pampling fired matching
four-under-par 68s to finish on 11-under 205, one stroke ahead
of Woods and PGA Tour rookie Nathan Green of Australia.

World number one Woods surged into contention for a record
fourth title at Torrey Pines with a sparkling 67 and
left-hander Green returned a 69 on the testing South Course.

Mickelson, who held the outright lead before slipping back
over the closing stretch, also shot a 69 to lie fifth at nine
under, level with Sweden's Jesper Parnevik (73) and overnight
pacesetter Brandt Jobe (75).

The fourth PGA Tour event of the year is set for a
thrilling finale with 10 players, three in the world's top 10,
separated by just three strokes at the top of the leaderboard.

Five strokes off the pace overnight, Garcia made a
stumbling start with a double-bogey six at the second hole but
recovered with birdies on five, six and nine to reach the turn
at one-under 35.

With his putting in fine touch, he picked up further shots
at the 10th, 12th and at the last to overhaul Woods, who
briefly held the clubhouse lead.


"It was a bit of a rough start," world number six Garcia
told reporters. "After that, I settled down, told myself I was
playing well and just needed to get on a run.

"From then on, I played pretty solid all the way coming in.
It's going to be a fun day tomorrow and by no means easy."

Like Garcia, Woods rallied from a slow start, reeling off
five birdies in the last 10 holes for the lowest round of the

Playing his first tournament of the year, the game's
leading player put himself in line to clinch the 47th PGA Tour
victory of his career on a course where he feels completely at

"I just feel very comfortable with the lines here at Torrey
Pines," Woods said. "It fits my eye.

"I felt like I really controlled my golf ball out there
today and at least put myself into position going into

Woods, who struggled off the tee on his way to an opening
71, stayed in the hunt to become the first player to win four
Buick Invitational titles.


After missing the fairway to the right on five of the first
six holes on a cold, overcast morning, he began to click as
Torrey Pines became drenched in bright sunshine.

A prodigious drive straight down the middle at the par-five
ninth set up his second birdie of the day and he picked up
another shot at the par-four 10th after hitting his approach to
six feet.

Although Woods found one of two front greenside bunkers at
the par-five 13th, he splashed out to within four feet of the
flag for birdie number four.

Further birdies followed on 15 and 17 after superb tee
shots on both holes set up precision wedges into the green.

Mickelson, champion in 1993, 2000 and 2001, made a rousing
start as birdies on two, three, six, nine and 11 put him one
shot clear at 11 under.

However, the left-hander lost momentum over the closing
holes with bogeys on 12, 15 and 17 before a birdie at the last.

"I had it going out there but then I let it get away,"
Mickelson said. "However, I'm in striking distance, as are a
lot of guys. It should be a fun shootout."