Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Garcia One Round from First Major; Stricker Is 3 Behind; Rest of Field Begins Final Day Far Back

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Garcia One Round from First Major; Stricker Is 3 Behind; Rest of Field Begins Final Day Far Back

Article excerpt

Byline: SCOTT MICHAUX

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland -- With the torrential rain never materializing and the wind switching to a more favorable direction, the place once dubbed Car-nasty turned into Carn-easy on Saturday.

That was fine with Sergio Garcia, who posted a spotless 68 at Carnoustie to reach 9-under par on Saturday and extend his lead to three strokes despite a course-record 64 posted by Steve Stricker.

At 6-under, Stricker is the only player closer than five strokes to stopping Garcia's wire-to-wire bid to win his first major championship.

"There's nothing better than seeing your name on the top of the leaderboard day after day after day," Garcia said. "I think it's great. I'm thrilled about it. I've just got to do it for one more day."

Garcia, 27, has twice before played in the final pairing of a major, but both times with Tiger Woods and never with the lead. This time, Woods is eight shots behind him and it's Garcia who is controlling his own destiny.

"Sergio is playing very solidly," said Stewart Cink, one of seven players tied for third at 3-under par. "He's in control and he controls everyone's fate."

The R&A promised it would not create the same difficult set-up that embarrased the game's best players in 1999 and sullied the course's reputation. But the quest for fairness coupled with enough rain to soften the course without hindering the players made Carnoustie play the patsy on Saturday.

Almost half the field shot par or better, with 27 breaking it and 17 shooting in the 60s.

Stricker -- who was tied for the lead halfway through the final round of last month's U.S. Open at Oakmont -- matched the course record with a bogey-free round of 7-under 64 that would have seemed impossible when the British Open was last here eight years ago. He played the first seven holes in 5-under without even making birdie on the easiest hole in that stretch, the par-5 sixth. He saved par on each of the last four holes to match a course-record set by Colin Montgomerie in the 1995 Scottish Open when the course was par 72 and 240 yards shorter.

"It was quite a day, it was quite an experience, it was a lot of fun, and it gives myself a chance going into [Sunday]," said Stricker, who has made himself a fixture on major leaderboards since last year's U. …

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