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Petrovic poised to reach top 30

JOHN SCHWARB
Published November 2, 2003

PALM HARBOR - Tim Petrovic is within striking distance of the Chrysler Championship title, sitting four shots back with 18 holes remaining.

Chances are today he'll only be thinking about winning at the Westin Innisbrook Resort, but he knows that with it would come some pretty good spoils.

A win would move the Dade City resident into the top 30 on the money list, earning him a trip to Houston for next week's $6-million, no-cut Tour Championship.

"I'm trying to extend my season one more week," said Petrovic, 41st on the money list. "A win would definitely do it."

The race to land inside the top 30 and top 40 has been a big subplot all week, with a number of key tournaments riding on those positions.

Finish in the top 30, you are in the Tour Championship and next year's U.S. Open. Miss that mark but at least finish between 31st and 40th, you're going to Augusta next year for the Masters.

Through three rounds at the Copperhead course, the picture of it all is becoming clearer.

"It looks like I'm definitely not going to move up this week, but I shouldn't move down more than a few spots," said Stewart Cink, who is tied for 34th on the money list but tied for 58th this week at 4 over par. "Once you've played as bad as I've played three days in a row now, you pretty much just leave it to the other guys to decide what you're going to be doing, which stinks."

Only Petrovic and Briny Baird are realistically poised to make big moves into the top 30. Baird is 35th on the money list with $1,744,269, but gatekeeper Rocco Mediate is 30th with $1,832,656.

Baird can knock Mediate out with a top-10 finish, but he prefers not to give it much thought.

"What's such a big deal about the top 30?" Baird said. "I don't think that's going to come into play that much (today)."

Other players have put much more effort into dissecting those milestones. John Rollins, 38th on the money list, played the Masters for the first time this year and knows his chances are good even though he's tied for 50th this week.

"I feel like I should be able to stay in there if I just play decent and make a check," Rollins said. "I know Phil (Mickelson, 37th on the money list) right in front of me missed the cut, if I get in front of him and hold off a couple more people behind me I should have a pretty good opportunity to stay 40th or better."

Clearwater's John Huston holds the magic 40th position, but shrugs it off. The way he sees it, qualifying for the Masters can also wait until the start of next season. Or not.

"If I'm playing good at the start of the year next year I'll be in the Masters anyway," said Huston, who is tied for 38th at 1 over. "If I'm not playing well, I wouldn't want to be there."

WOODY'S SEESAW: Tampa's Woody Austin is known for being a bit hard on himself on the golf course. Consider Saturday one of those days.

After shooting 75 Thursday he had Friday's low round, 65. Yet Saturday he was 11 shots worse with 76.

"What do you want to know, what it's like to stink 95 percent of the time?" Austin said. "All (Friday) did was give me a chance to screw up again today."

LIGHT READING: What does a tour player pull out of his bag to read immediately after a round? The morning newspaper? The latest best-seller? Golf Digest?

Um, try Florida Foosball News.

That's what Paul Azinger was engrossed in after shooting 73.

"I'm stuck in the '70s," Azinger said. "I'm addicted to foosball."

AT THE TURNSTILES: Tournament director Gerald Goodman said the tournament drew around 28,000-30,000 spectators from Monday through Friday. Today's tickets are $35 if purchased at any Kash N' Karry store or at will call at the Hooters on U.S. 19 across from Innisbrook. Tickets are $45 if purchased in the parking lots or at the gate.

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