Wi in charge as Tiger lurks

2012-02-12 12:01

Pebble Beach - South Korean Charlie Wi maintained ice-cool composure to retain control of the Pebble Beach National Pro-Am in Saturday's third round as some of golf's biggest names snapped at his heels.

Three ahead of the chasing pack overnight, Wi ground out a three-under-par 69 at Spyglass Hill in California, the most difficult of the three venues being used at this week's pro-am celebrity event.

The Korean, who has yet to win on the PGA Tour, finished at 15-under 199, three strokes in front of American Ken Duke, who fired a five-under 65 on the relatively easy Monterey Peninsula Shore Course.

Lurking a further stroke back at 11 under was the ominous figure of Tiger Woods, who piled up six birdies in eight holes on the way to a five-under 67 at Pebble Beach Golf Links.

Also in contention at nine under were three-times champion Phil Mickelson, who carded a 70 at Pebble Beach, and twice winner Dustin Johnson, after a 70 at Monterey Peninsula.

Woods, bidding for his first PGA Tour victory in more than two years, knew had to shoot a low round at Pebble Beach on Saturday to stay in touch with the pacesetting Wi.

"Charlie was playing well," 14-times major champion Woods told reporters. "He got off to a quick start, he was like one under through two or three holes, and he kept building on that.

"I needed to at least close the gap so I'm within touch tomorrow. I figured I had to shoot a good one today.

"I've won my share of events, and it feels good," added Woods, a winner of 71 PGA Tour titles. "That's the ultimate goal and that's what we set out to do at the beginning of every event is to win it. That's the goal tomorrow, as well."

Wi, who has finished second on the US circuit four times, delivered a flawless display with three birdies on the tricky Spyglass Hill layout to retain control of the tournament.

As early morning cloud cover gave way to steady drizzle and then afternoon sunshine, the 40-year-old Korean birdied two of his last seven holes to finish at 15 under.

"I definitely caught myself getting ahead (of myself) today but I was able to get back to what I was doing and I was really happy about that," said Wi, who has won nine professional titles worldwide.

"I am sure I will be fighting my demons all day tomorrow. It is how I handle myself that is going to be the outcome of the tournament.

"He (Woods) has won 70-some times and I am trying to get my first, so I have a lot more pressure on me than he does."

Wi, who held a one-stroke lead going into the final round of last year's Colonial Invitational before finishing one behind eventual winner David Toms, believes he is a different and more energised player in 2012.

"I know tonight is going to be very exciting and I am sure I won't sleep as well as if I am in 50th place," he said. "But that's what we play for and I am really excited.

"Something has turned over the last couple of months where I really feel comfortable with myself out there. I enjoy being in the lead, it is a lot more fun than coming from behind."

Triple major winner Padraig Harrington of Ireland briefly moved to three strokes off the lead in the third round before he dropped four shots in his last five holes for a 72 at Spyglass Hill and an eight-under total.

The cut fell at one-under 213 with former major winners David Duval, Trevor Immelman and Mike Weir, and US Ryder Cup player Rickie Fowler, among those failing to advance.

Leading third round scores from the US PGA Tour Pebble Beach National Pro-Am on Saturday in Pebble Beach, California. (US unless stated):

199 Charlie Wi (South Korea) 61 69 69 202 Ken Duke 64 73 65 203 Tiger Woods 68 68 67 205 Phil Mickelson 70 65 70
Kevin Na 66 69 70
Dustin Johnson 63 72 70
Brendon Todd 67 69 69
Hunter Mahan 65 70 70 206 Bob Estes 67 70 69
Ricky Barnes 70 66 70
Padraig Harrington (Ireland) 68 66 72 207 Aaron Baddeley (Australia) 66 72 69
Kevin Streelman 70 69 68
Ryan Palmer 72 71 64
Ryan Moore 72 64 71
Geoff Ogilvy (Australia) 70 69 68
Greg Owen (Britain) 68 67 72
Vijay Singh (Fiji) 68 68 71
Jason Kokrak 68 67 72 208 Jimmy Walker 69 68 71
Nick Watney 66 73 69
Joseph Bramlett 66 69 73
Shane Bertsch 68 75 65
Brian Gay 69 65 74
Brian Harman 64 73 71
Robert Garrigus 68 69 71
Jonas Blixt (Sweden) 70 69 69 209 Roland Thatcher 71 68 70
Mathew Goggin (Australia) 69 71 69
Spencer Levin 69 69 71
Richard Lee 65 71 73
Miguel Carballo (Argentina) 69 71 69