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Showing up from middle of nowhere

By BOB HARIG, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published July 21, 2002

GULLANE, Scotland -- After poor performances in the second round, former champion Justin Leonard and British phenom Justin Rose were all but dismissed from consideration at the 131st Open.

They teed off in the 12th group of the day, about five hours before the final twosome of Ernie Els and Shigeki Maruyama. They were seven shots behind the leaders at Muirfield and were tied for 50th.

And even after both shot 3-under-par 68 on Saturday, finishing well before the leaders teed off, they weren't really thinking about holding the Claret Jug today.

"There are so many players between myself and what's leading," Leonard said.

Not any more.

Their scores put them at 2-under 211. After a wild afternoon of terrible weather sent many players tumbling down the leaderboard, Leonard and Rose were tied for third, three shots behind Els.

Sergio Garcia was in that group as well, having shot 71 after playing his back nine in the worst of the conditions.

"I feel like I shot 5 or 6 under par," said Garcia, who hit 5-iron to the green at the par-4 11th hole from 155 yards. "That tells you how tough it was playing."

Suddenly Garcia was in excellent position to win his first major.

"I'm really looking forward to it," he said. "If you take a look the last couple of years, I've been putting myself in good positions to win majors. I'm looking forward to tomorrow, I'm looking forward for the wind to blow. But hopefully it will be nice and sunny."

* * *

CHANCE TO DEFEND: His play has steadily improved for three straight rounds, and defending champion David Duval was five shots out of the lead. But when he finished his round he had no idea he would be so close.

"My golf this week so far has, like a lot of my golf this year, been very mediocre," he said. "Each day I should have been a few shots better than I am. If I'd been at the top of my golf game I would have probably been 5 or 6 under at the moment. I've got a little bit of work ahead of me, and I will keep working on things the rest of this year and really get on top of it."

* * *

LEFTY HAS NO FUN: For the first time in four major championships it appears Phil Mickelson will not finish among the top five. That is far more difficult, he said, than coming close but not winning, as many have suggested.

"It's much more frustrating playing like this than being second, third, second and losing that way, because at least I had a chance," said Mickelson, who shot 76 for the second straight round and was at 7-over 220. "I enjoyed those (chances at major) tournaments, enjoyed each one of the rounds, and that was much easier to deal with than playing like this."

Mickelson finished second to David Toms at last year's PGA Championship, third to Tiger Woods at this year's Masters and second to Woods at the U.S. Open.

One haunting coincidence: Woods shot 81 Saturday, but he still was a shot ahead of Mickelson.

* * *

UP AND DOWN: It was a wild day for Duffy Waldorf. He began tied for the lead at 6 under. He bogeyed the first four holes, added two double-bogeys and shot 45 on the front nine. After bogey at the 10th he was 10 over par for his round. But he made five birdies on the back to shoot 77. He was tied for 14th.

A 54 OR 94 TODAY? Scotland's Colin Montgomerie tied a dubious Open Championship record for the biggest variation between two rounds. After opening with 74, Montgomerie bounced back Friday with 64 to get into contention, two off the lead. But his third-round 84 didn't include a birdie. That 20-shot difference tied the record set by R.G. French, who shot a second-round 71 and a third-round 91 in 1938 at Royal St. George's. The best turnaround is 18 strokes by A. Tingey Jr., who went from 94 in the first round to 76 in the second in 1923 at Troon.

* * *

WAY BACK: Paul Lawrie set an Open record three years ago at Carnoustie when he came from 10 strokes back in the final round and won in a playoff. Lawrie is 10 strokes behind Els.

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