September 1, 2007

A Mad Scramble Again

Wetterich shot his third straight round in the 60s to take a one shot lead over Oberholser. Mickelson is two back with Tiger right behind him.

Wetterich will need at least a repeat of Sunday to claim victory.

Wetterich will need at least a repeat of Sunday to claim victory.

NORTON, Mass. (AP) -- The first two days of Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson were a showcase for the PGA Tour Playoffs.

This time figures to be far more meaningful.

Never mind that neither of them were in the lead Sunday at the Deutsche Bank Championship. That belonged to Brett Wetterich, who saved himself with an amazing par and emerged from the pack with an eagle on his way to a 5-under 66 for a one-shot lead over Arron Oberholser (66) on a dynamic afternoon at TPC Boston.

The focus, not to mention the crowds, shifts to Woods and Mickelson in a Labor Day finish. The longtime rivals will be paired in the final round for the first time since the 2005 Ford Championship at Doral.

Neither of them knew it when they signed their cards -- Mickelson after scrambling for a 68 that left him two shots behind, Woods after wasting a good round by three-putting the last two greens for a 67 to finish three shots behind Wetterich.

But if they didn't already have enough history, Lefty added some more spice.

He mentioned after their second round Saturday that Butch Harmon, the celebrated swing coach once employed by Woods and now working for Mickelson, and told Lefty to watch for a few nuances of the world's No. 1 player.

"In the past, I haven't really played that well with Tiger," Mickelson said. "But he (Harmon) told me a couple things that he likes to do, and I kind of watching for it, and I chuckled throughout the round when I'd pick up on it. I think that working with Butch has really helped me understand how to get my best golf when I play in the same group as Tiger.

"And I'm hoping I have a chance to do that on Monday."

Maybe he should leave a tip for Aaron Baddeley, who made bogey on the par-5 18th while trying to reach the green from a bunker. That set up another Woods-Mickelson pairing, the fifth in the final round over the last 10 years.

Woods has a 3-1-1 advantage, three times leading to victory.

Wetterich, of course, still holds the key to victory since he wound up atop the leaderboard after plenty of thrills. He took a half-dozen drops on the fifth hole after hitting into the trees, needing relief from the hazard, the cart path and television cables. Then he hammered a 5-iron from 220 yards into 5 feet for par, reached the 600-yard seventh hole in two for a 15-foot eagle and never gave back the lead.

He was at 13-under 200, the first time in his career he has gone into the final round with the lead.

Wetterich hasn't been in serious contention since Doral, when he played with Woods in the final pairing. Facing a four-shot deficit, he shot a 1-under 71 and finished two shots behind. At least this time, it's a fair fight.

"If I go out and shoot 5 under like I did today, it's going to be hard to beat me, unless someone really plays a good round of golf," Wetterich said. "I'm going to go out and try to make the best score that I can. And if someone catches me and beats me, then they did."

Oberholser hasn't come close to winning since he started the final round two shots behind at the Wachovia Championship, where he closed with a 74 and wound up six shots behind Woods.

He was disgusted and shocked and overall pleased, emotions that summed up the 18th hole, if not his third round.

With a chance to tie for the lead, Oberholser chunked a 4-iron into the hazard, took a drop and then saved par with a 20-foot putt.

"There was a wide range of emotions, from a good drive to 'Oh my God, I just chunked it into the hazard' to I hit a mediocre pitch shots to 'Wow, what a putt!' It'll make dinner taste a little bit better tonight," Oberholser said.

One thing was apparent -- these playoffs are delivering some great golf.

A week ago at The Barclays, 10 players were separated by three shots along the back nine until Steve Stricker birdied the last three holes for his first victory in more than six years. Monday at the Deutsche Bank carries those possibilities, beyond Woods and Mickelson.

A dozen players were within five shots of Wetterich going into the last round.

U.S. Open champion Angel Cabrera eagled the last hole for a 65 to reach 9-under 204, while Stricker made a 60-foot eagle on the 18th hole that swirled all the way around the cup and gave him a 69, putting him in the group at 205.

It might not be so close if not for some mistakes by the leaders.

Wetterich twice missed putts inside 6 feet on the last three holes, for par on the 16th and for birdie on the 18th. Baddeley also wobbled, three-putting for bogey from 65 feet on the 16th, then having to save par from 10 feet after finding a bunker on the 17th.

Mickelson got the best out of his round, a half-dozen times making par putts in the 6-foot range.

"Being able to salvage pars and not force myself to keep making a lot of birdies allowed me to shoot a solid round of 68, be in contention for tomorrow without having to force things," Mickelson said.

Woods moved into contention with three straight birdies starting with a 30-foot putt on No. 8. But he was furious at the end by losing two shots with his putting, and figured he would need a big rally Monday.

"Instead of being two or three back, I'll be five or six back," Woods said. "I'm going to have to actually shoot a really low round tomorrow, and hopefully, it will be enough."

He wound up only three shots behind, the same margin he made up a year ago against Singh.

And he gets to play with Mickelson again.