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Woods has others shaking their heads

©Associated Press
September 22, 2002

THOMASTOWN, Ireland -- Despite no bogeys over the first 54 holes and his largest lead in two years, Tiger Woods figures he needs one more good round to capture the American Express Championship.

Everyone else might need a lot more than that.

"It will take something in the 50s to catch him," Jerry Kelly said after spending Saturday watching Woods put on another clinic at Mount Juliet.

Woods didn't hit the ball as crisply as he did the first two days, but he produced a nonchalant round of 5-under 67 on a gorgeous afternoon in Ireland.

Birdies on the final two holes, the last after a 5-iron stopped 4 feet from the cup, left Woods at 19-under 197 and gave him a five-stroke lead over half a dozen players, none of whom sounded optimistic about his chances.

"Tiger is playing awfully well," Steve Lowery said. "I think I'll need the round of my life to beat him."

Scott McCarron set a course record with 8-under 64. He was at 202 and plays with Woods in the final group today. They also played Mount Juliet together, along with Mark O'Meara, the week before the British Open in July.

Woods beat him that day, although McCarron had an excuse. He celebrated his 37th birthday the previous day and wasn't exactly in fighting form.

"It was a tough round for him," Woods said, smiling.

Lowery, who has made one bogey, didn't make enough birdies in the third round and wound up with 69.

Also in the group at 14-under 202 were Vijay Singh (66), Retief Goosen (68), Kelly (70) and David Toms (69).

What will it take to catch Tiger?

"Something lower than Scott McCarron's 64," Toms said. "I think I could shoot something lower, post it and see what happens."

Rocco Mediate shot 67 and at 13-under 203 was asked if that put him in contention.

"I don't know what the man's up to," he said, as Woods was still on the course. "If you're five or six behind, there's not much of a chance."

Woods has gone 64 holes without bogey, dating to the NEC Invitational at Sahalee. He is ruthless with 54-hole leads with a 29-4 record worldwide when he has at least a share of the lead to start the final round.

But Woods takes nothing for granted.

"This golf course, you can shoot some low numbers on it," he said. "The greens are so good, anyone can come out tomorrow and shoot a low one. I have to keep making birdies and playing well."

* * *

SAS CHAMPIONSHIP: It's been 17 years since Andy North won a golf tournament. The two-time U.S. Open champion believes he's due.

North birdied his closing four holes in a second-round 66 for a one-shot lead over Bruce Lietzke in the Senior PGA Tour event at Cary, N.C.

For most of the day it appeared Lietzke would be the story after his course-record 63 at Prestonwood Country Club jumped the defending champion over more than 40 golfers and into the lead.

But North, with two top-10 finishes this season in 19 events, closed strong an hour later and was at 10-under 134.

"I didn't play all that great for 14 holes. I got it around, and then I played some really nice shots at the end, and all of the sudden it was a wonderful round of golf," North said.

North, whose last win was the 1985 U.S. Open at Oakland Hills, has played in 66 senior events in three seasons and has not led going into the final round.

"I went through a stretch there where I couldn't play golf for 10 or 12 years," said North, who had operations on his knees, neck, elbow and for skin cancer. "That's the reason I ended up getting into television. I just couldn't play anymore. I physically couldn't do it."

North, who also won the Open in 1978, made the field as an alternate when Tom Wargo was admitted to a Winston-Salem hospital after having a heart attack before the start of last weekend's final round of the RJR Championship.

Five were tied at 7 under, three shots behind North, including Tom Watson and first-round leader Jim Thorpe, who shot 64 Friday but followed with 73.

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