Friday, 19 March 2010
David Toms produced compelling credentials for a Ryder Cup debut next month when he moved into a two stroke lead going into the final round of the 83rd US PGA Championship at Atlanta Athletic Club.

The 34 year old, currently ranked 14th on the United States Ryder Cup points list, had two strokes of luck - or genius - to thank for his status as tournament leader over perennial runner-up, Phil Mickelson.

Toms aced the 227 yard 15th with a five wood then drained a 30 footer for a birdie on the 18th to convert a one shot deficit into a two stroke lead over Mickelson, still seeking his first Major title despite some close calls.

The player from Louisiana, who had only broken 70 once in 12 rounds in the event since 1997, leads on a 14 under par total of 196 after scores of 66-65-65.

Toms will play in the final pairing with Mickelson, who conjured up some magic of his own on his way to registering a third successive 66 for 198.

The gifted left hander almost holed his second shot at the 11th and did actually knock his approach into the hole at the 14th, but the ball bounced back out and finished less than six inches away. Mickelson bogeyed the 15th and 17th to drop into second as Toms played the same stretch in three under par.

Steve Lowery (66) and Shingo Katayama (69) share third place on 200 while South Africans Ernie Els and Retief Goosen are the leading European Tour Members on the leaderboard on 204 and 205 respectively.

Goosen stepped up his bid to add another American Major to his record when he moved swiftly through the field in the third round but Toms and Mickelson's glorious play meant he finished the day nine shots in arrears.

Els followed a par of 67s with a 70 in furnace-like conditions while Goosen, who won the US Open title after an 18 hole play-off with Mark Brooks in June, fired a four under par 66 to move onto a five under par total of 205.

The soft-spoken Goosen once again let his club do the talking as he posted the best score of a morning which saw no fewer than 19 European Tour Members in action from an original entry of 35.

Goosen commented: “It was nice to make a few putts early on and get the round going. If I am only six or so off the lead I still think I have a chance. I have a bit of work to do on my driving but if I keep making the putts you never know what can happen.”

Lee Westwood had a rollercoaster day after making the cut on Friday with a shot to spare. He opened with two bogeys in the first four holes then picked up shots at the fifth, eighth, ninth and tenth before eagling the 12th.

However all the good work was undone at the 15th – the graveyard of many hopes this week – where he made a double bogey, eventually settling for a second successive round of 68 and a three under par total of 207.

Westwood said: "Today was probably the worst I've swung it this week, but to shoot 68 on this course when you haven't played your best tee to green is pleasing.

"I've hit some great shots and I've hit some indescribable shots. It will be case of going onto the range and fine-tuning it back to how it was on Thursday and Friday."

Also on three under par is Sweden's Niclas Fasth, the leading European for the first two days. He shot a two over par 72 but has still enjoyed a solid week to consolidate his seventh place in the European Ryder Cup points table.

Westwood's story was similar to that of Angel Cabrera of Argentina. He birdied the fourth, fifth and eighth to get to five under par but was another caught out by one of the most demanding finishes in golf. He bogeyed the 15th and made a double bogey six at the last for a 70 to finish on 208.

José Maria Olazábal produced one of his best efforts for some time, a two under par 68 for 209 while Andrew Coltart finished on even par after a 71 with Paul McGinley and Thomas Björn shooting 71s for 211.

Three bogeys in the last five holes left Tiger Woods with what looked an impossible task of winning the title for a third straight year - and even he agreed with that.

After the drama of the defending champion surviving the halfway cut thanks to two birdies in the last four holes on Friday night came more thrills and spills in the third round. But after signing for a one under par 69 and one under aggregate of 209 Woods said: "I figured if I could shoot three or four under on the back nine I would be right back in the tournament. But I couldn't do it."

When the defending champion, who was trying to become the first player since Walter Hagen in the 1920s to win the crown three years in a row, sank his approach to the 416 yard ninth for an eagle two and an outward 33 his recovery bid seemed back on.

A two-putt birdie at the long 12th, where he required only a seven iron for his second, added to that feeling. But Woods was in the rough at the 13th and 14th and while he salvaged a par at the first of those he couldn't at the second.

Holing an 18-footer for birdie on the 227-yard 15th was a fine response, but Woods then three putted the 17th and fluffed a chip from over the back of the 18th green.

Nick Faldo had the thrill of the tenth hole in one of his career when he sank his four iron to the 204 yard fourth. But it was the only bright spot of the day for the 44 year old, who now gives himself no chance of another Ryder Cup appearance at The De Vere Belfry next month.

Faldo double bogeyed the short 15th in a 71 for a two over aggregate of 212, having only just survived the cut himself following a triple bogey seven on the 18th in his second round 74.

"I shall let all the young devils get on with it now," he added, referring to the Ryder Cup."I'm not going to play in the final counting event in Munich in a fortnight and go through what I did two years ago."

Colin Montgomerie has no worries about making Europe's side but he was still hoping to make an impact this weekend. Instead, however, he failed to follow up his inward 31 of the second round.

Mixing three birdies with three bogeys on his return to the front nine Montgomerie then bogeyed the 12th and 13th and an inward nine of 39 left him nursing his wrath with a round of 74 and four over par total of 214. On the same score were Ian Woosnam, who shot a 73, and Volvo PGA champion Andrew Oldcorn (74).

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