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Nice finish keeps Tiger within reach

By BOB HARIG, Times Staff Writer

© St. Petersburg Times, published March 30, 2003

PONTE VEDRA BEACH -- The ball was buried so deep in the greenside rough that Tiger Woods could not see it.

"I saw it come out, that's about it," Woods said of his recovery on the par-5 ninth hole, his last of Saturday's third round. "Just played it like an explosion shot and hope for the best, just try and get the ball anywhere on that green and it was going to be a heck of a shot. Walk out of there with no worse than five, I am looking pretty good."

After Woods holed a 20-footer for birdie he was looking better than good.

Woods birdied his last two holes at the Players Championship to shoot 4-under-par 68 and give himself an outside shot at victory today.

"Those two birdies on the last two holes were huge," said Woods, who was at 6-under 210 and tied for 12th, five shots behind third-round co-leaders Jay Haas and Padraig Harrington.

"In general I'm looking pretty good right now," he said. "I am looking to where I can legitimately get to those guys (today)."

COREY WHO?: It's been seven mostly lackluster seasons since Corey Pavin last won a tournament. The 1995 U.S. Open champion has no top-3 finishes on the PGA Tour since his 1996 victory at Colonial and has gone 159 events without a win. But Pavin, 43, a 14-time tour winner, gave himself a chance with 3-under 69. "It's not fun for me to come out here and finish 50th every week," he said. "I'd just as soon do something else. But I'm out here now, and I feel like I can win golf tournaments."

SCOREBOARD WATCHING: Haas said he'll look at the scoreboard today to see what is happening around him. "I don't agree with not looking at the scoreboard," he said about some players' determination not to look, usually because they don't want to become nervous. "Could you imagine (basketball coach) Bobby Knight or somebody not looking at what the score is at the end of the game? 'Should we hold it, should we not? I don't know what the score is.' ... I like seeing my name up there. There's no defense in golf, and I've just got to go out there and play my game."

REPEAT: Craig Perks put himself in position to become the first to defend his Players Championship title. And he needed a little bit of last year's good fortune to do it. Perks chipped in for eagle at the par-5 16th and made a long birdie putt at 17, just as he did in last year's final round. A bogey at the 18th dropped him two shots behind the leaders. "There's some magic out there for me. I have no idea why," Perks said after shooting 70.

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