Saturday, March 23, 2002

Third Round Notes

Carl Paulson holds the record for consecutive tournaments played -- 83 -- on the Nike/ Tour. All that hard work was evident today as he posted his third straight 69 to take a one-shot lead at The Players Championship. Three straight 69s on that golf course and those greens is truly impressive. Almost as impressive was Craig Perks, Paulson's compadre from the Nike/ Tour. Had he not three-jacked the 8th green, he'd either be one up or tied with Paulson at the top of the Leaderboard.

Saturday, as the commentators kept saying, is not Sunday. It seems likely that Paulson and Perks will struggle tomorrow to shoot even par. If one of them does post a 72, he'll probably win the tournament. Right now, it looks like the winning number will be somewhere between 279 (nine-under) and 282 (six-under).

Mike Weir and David Toms are well-positioned to make a run. Both men are at 5-under and are proven players under pressure. Nick Faldo needs to shoot a 67. Tiger Woods needs to shoot a 66, which he can (and probably will) do. Phil Mickelson needs to shoot a 64. Sergio Garcia and Retief Goosen are by no means out of the hunt. Nor is Jim Furyk.

If you look at the stats pages, the thing that really stands out is Tiger Woods's putting (not good) and driving distance (astonishing). He's on the green in regulation, he's just not making the putts. If he starts dropping putts early tomorrow, Mr. Paulson and Mr. Perks will have the unsettling experience of watching Tiger's score fall to within striking distance, just as they are about to tee off. And then we'll see if they can breathe.