Canada's Mike Weir started the day leading the Mercedes-Benz Championship by a shot and takes the same advantage into today's final round.
Weir retains 1-shot lead at Mercedes
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KAPALUA, Maui » Mike Weir credits his performance at the Presidents Cup in Montreal last year for how he turned his golf game around.
It showed a few weeks later at the Fry's Electronics Open in Arizona, where Weir won his first tournament in three and a half years to put him in the Mercedes-Benz Championship field for the first time since 2004, when he finished in 24th place.
The Canadian is aiming a bit higher today as he tries to win on the PGA Tour for the ninth time. After a 5-under 68 yesterday, the former Masters champion holds a one-shot advantage over Mercedes first-timer Nick Watney and is two shots clear of Daniel Chopra and Jonathan Byrd in this hotly contested tournament.
There are a dozen golfers within five shots of the lead, including defending champion Vijay Singh.
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KAPALUA, Maui » If the leaderboard at the $5.5 million Mercedes-Benz Championship was any tighter, you'd need a wedge to pry it apart.
Canadians Mike Weir and Stephen Ames began the day at the top of the charts, but only Weir survived after another hot scoring round left so many golfers in the chase, it's hard to leave anybody out.
Weir fired a 5-under 68 yesterday to take a one-shot lead over first-day leader Nick Watney (67), and a two-shot advantage over Daniel Chopra (67) and Jonathan Byrd (69). Ames (70) birdied the last to sit alone in fifth, three shots off the pace.
Plantation Course veterans Jim Furyk (66) and Justin Leonard (69) find themselves tied for sixth, four shots back, with Steve Stricker and Brandt Snedeker. Even defending champion Vijay Singh (67) can't be discounted. He's part of a group of three that's tied for 10th, five shots removed from Weir and still in the hunt in this winners-only event.
"There's a lot of guys close," Weir said, "so I'm going to have to shoot a good one tomorrow. There's a lot of guys right behind me with a lot of experience. I'm sure I'm going to have to shoot somewhere (between 5 and 7 under), depending what the day gives us. But I'm sure I'm going to have to shoot somewhere in that range to pull this thing out."
After a poor opening day on Thursday, the weather has been a lot kinder over the last 36 holes. The first day there were only two guys in the 60s. On Friday, that number jumped to 10 and yesterday 16 of the 31 turned that trick to produce a scoring average of 69.742. Only four golfers didn't find red figures, with Joe Ogilvie the only golfer over par with a 74.
Furyk's 7-under 66 was the best round of the day, equaling Mark Calcavecchia's 18 on Friday, but for the 2001 champion to have any shot today, he'll have to go lower to make up the difference Weir has created with three steady rounds of golf.
Mike Weir is one shot ahead of the field going into today's final round of the Mercedes-Benz Championship at Kapalua.
Watney and Chopra were the only golfers to shoot in the 60s on Thursday, but their 72s on Friday allowed the field to make up some ground lost the opening day. Weir is 10 under for the tournament on the par 5s, while Watney is 8 under and Chopra 6 under.
If everything is equal today and the course continues to dry out, the long hitters may have a slight advantage. Watney just missed an eagle at the 18th and Weir was only inches away from his second eagle at the ninth.
"I've driven the ball pretty well on those holes," said Watney, who had a bogey-free round. "And then the wind, certain holes you can reach. By putting the ball in the fairway on most of the par 5s, that's been definitely the key. I thought it (eagle putt at the last) had a chance, but I knew the grain was coming from the right, so I was surprised it slid by."
Weir also thought his shot at the ninth had a chance to go in. He chipped from just off the front of the green, then stood on his tiptoes as the ball tracked toward the hole.
"It looked pretty good from where I was," Weir said. "I couldn't tell from down below if it was releasing, but it looked like it was curling in. It ended up about 4, 5 inches short. I was kind of looking over the edge."
Chopra and Byrd are right on the edge as well, tied for third and two shots removed from the lead. Byrd shot a steady 69 that included a bogey on the front side. Chopra had a little more flair with no mistakes, giving the first-time Plantation participant a chance to make some noise today thanks to his sizzling 6-under 67.
"I played exactly the way I played the first day," Chopra said.
"That was my goal. Just eliminate the mistakes that I made over the previous round in certain areas and for the most part I was able to do that. Every time I made a mistake this week, it felt like a stupid mistake and it was a silly bogey.
"And the one bogey I made today I didn't really hit a bad shot. I thought I could fly that bunker on 16, not a problem, and I turned it over and I guess it spun a little bit and held into the wind. It looked like it flew the bunker and it obviously landed right in the face and I had a really tough shot from there and made bogey."
Of the top five golfers, only Watney and Weir had bogey-free rounds. Furyk also played his 18 holes bogey free.