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Eagle moves Huston up leaderboard

By BOB HARIG, Times Staff Writer

© St. Petersburg Times, published March 23, 2003

ORLANDO -- It was a long day but well worth it for John Huston.

He had to complete 13 holes of his second round of the Bay Hill Invitational on Saturday morning, and after a short break he shot 6-under-par 66 in the third round to give himself a long-shot chance at victory today.

Huston, who lives in Clearwater, finished 3-3-3, with eagle at the par-5 16th and birdie at the 18th. He set up the eagle with a 4-wood from 235 yards to within 10 feet of the cup.

"I knew it was good, but the way that green is you never know how close it's going to be," said Huston, who was at 7-under 209, eight strokes behind leader Tiger Woods. "It's hard enough to hit a sand wedge close there. I just happened to be the right distance. The ball went over that ridge and started going toward the hole."

Huston, ranked 39th in the world, appears to have locked up a spot in next month's Masters. He needs to remain in the top 50 through next week's Players Championship to qualify, and a high finish at Bay Hill all but assures an invitation. Huston also is 22nd on the PGA Tour money list with $604,990.

EARLY START: The final round is scheduled to begin at 8 this morning, with threesomes going off the front and back nine. The leaders will tee off at 9:48. The PGA Tour moved up the start in an effort to finish the round before thunderstorms are forecasted to arrive. The round should finish by 3p.m. NBC-TV (Ch.8) broadcasts the final round from 2:30-6 p.m. on tape delay.

WRIST WOES: The right wrist Ernie Els injured working out with a punching bag gave him problems Saturday. "I couldn't quite be as aggressive as I wanted to be," he said. "I kind of flinched a couple of times. I still hit some good ones coming in. It should be okay."

ODDS AND ENDS: Woods is in position to extend his career-best streak of nine straight top-10 finishes. He set his record when he won the Match Play Championship in April. His last finish out of the top 10 was a tie for 28th at the British Open. ... Ty Tryon, 18, is tied for 28th after 74, and he made the cut for the first time in six starts this year. Tryon made one cut in six tournaments last year, a tie for 41st at the Tampa Bay Classic.

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