Saturday, June 14

Saturday's guide to the Open

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OLYMPIA FIELDS, Ill. - Saturday. Moving Day, in the parlance of the PGA Tour.

Don't Shoot Yourself In The Foot Day, in the parlance of the U.S. Open.

You can't win the Open on Day 3, but you can certainly lose it.

Take last year: Padraig Harrington was in second place, three shots back after 36 holes, but after shooting 73 on Saturday, he was fifth and out of contention. Davis Love III and K.J. Choi were tied for third Friday night. By Saturday night, they were 10th and 13th, thanks to a 72 (Love) and a 73 (Choi).

Momentum for Saturday at Olympia Fields? Tough to argue with Vijay Singh, who tied the U.S. Open record with a 63 on Friday. But all the leaders went low.

So Moving Day likely will be Shootout Day.

The final five pairings
Nick Price
Nick Price-Tom Watson, 2:20 p.m. ET
A comfortable pairing for a couple of veterans. Price has two majors - both PGAs. Price has been his usual consistent self - he's made just two bogeys all week and he made six birdies in his 65 on Friday (his best Open round ever in 58 tries). Watson has been the best feel-good story of the week. The key is his putter - he had 23 putts when he shot 65 on Thursday; he had 34 when he shot 72 on Friday.

Tiger Woods
Eduardo Romero-Tiger Woods, 3:30 p.m. ET
Woods has dominated some relative unknowns in the third round (remember Thomas Bjorn, who shot 82 when paired with Woods in the third round at Pebble Beach in 2000)? And he announced his presence with authority Friday by shooting 66. But Romero isn't a youngster - he's 48 and has played in four previous Opens. Romero has hit fewer than half of his fairways this week (13 of 28), but he can still hit the ball a long way and isn't likely to crack under the glare of the Woods media circus.

Justin Leonard
Fredrik Jacobson-Justin Leonard, 3:40 p.m. ET
Leonard has been in the pressure of the late groups before at majors, most recently at the PGA Championship at Hazeltine National last year. After sharing the lead after Round 1, he hit just six of 14 fairways in the second round and scrambled for an even-par 70. Jacobson is a 28-year-old from Sweden who has won in Hong Kong and Portugal this year on the European Tour and has played well here (69-67). But that was with John Maginnes and Brian Henninger. It isn't Woods in his group, but Leonard does have some star power.

Jonathan Byrd
Stephen Leaney-Jonathan Byrd, 3:50 p.m. ET:
Fortunately for both, they avoided the big names and will likely play without the throngs that will follow the other late starters. Neither has ever played on the weekend at the Open; Leaney missed the cut in his only appearance; Byrd is here for the first time. Both have been consistent. Leaney has made just one bogey through 36 holes. Byrd hit 11 of 14 fairways and 16 of 18 greens en route to a 66 on Friday.

Vijay Singh
Jim Furyk-Vijay Singh, 4 p.m. ET
Some star power runs the anchor leg. Both sizzled on Friday - Singh tied the U.S. Open scoring record with a 63, Furyk shot an effortless 66 without making a bogey. Singh, with PGA and Masters titles, has never led at the U.S. Open before. Furyk, without a major, has been in late groups on Saturday at the Open before and played well (70 in 1996, when he tied for fifth) and 69 in 1997 (when he also tied for fifth).

Keep an eye on ...
Robert Damron (-3): He's one of six players in the 60s in both rounds thus far, but has missed the cut in nine of his 16 PGA Tour events this year and hasn't finished higher than 38th. Could be a Cinderella story - or a third-round flame-out.

Stewart Cink (-2): Some Chicago-area radio personalities considered Cink a major championship winner earlier this week before somebody corrected them. He nearly got into a playoff two years ago at Southern Hills, but missed a 3-footer on the final hole. His 68 on Friday was workmanlike and, despite some struggles this year, he might be due to get a late Sunday tee time in a major.

Darren Clarke (-1): He's never won a major and has a history of third-round blow-ups at the Open (including an 83 in 2000). But he's playing consistently and could be dangerous.

David Toms (-1): He's only six shots back and shot 67 on Friday. And he knows how to close the deal in a major.

Phil Mickelson (Even): Too far back? Probably. "I don't like being seven back," he said. "I don't like the way I feel I scored the first two days." But he's got an early tee time (1:10 p.m. ET) and knows what he needs. "If I want a chance on Sunday, I'm going to have to go shoot 4-, 5-, 6-under." Let's see it.

Beware of ...
It's got to get tougher: The players are talking about this being the easiest U.S. Open ever. It may well be. But even at the easiest Opens - take 1990 at Medinah, for example - things get tough over the weekend. That year, 47 players broke par on Friday, but only 24 did on Saturday. Friday, 39 players broke par at Olympia Fields. Saturday? Figure 15 to 20.

Third-round blues: Singh has shot less than 70 only once in eight tries at the Open. Furyk shot 84 three years ago at Pebble Beach. Leaney and Byrd have never seen a third round in the Open (nor has Jacobson, for that matter). Price has only two of his 12 third rounds below 70; Romero none in his three. That leaves Woods, who's rarely spectacular in the third round at the Open (he's only broken 70 once), but he rarely balloons (he's only been above 73 once).

David Kraft is an Senior Editor.

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