At PGA, a major chase Norman on top after 3 rounds but leader board crowed


TOLEDO, Ohio -- There will be one more walk to the first tee at the Inverness Club for Greg Norman, barring a playoff in the evening hours today. When he arrived here for the PGA Championship in 1986, he had won his first major championship, the British Open at Turnberry in the west of Scotland. History bespeaks the rest of it, as Norman watched Bob Tway hole a sand wedge on the 72nd hole to win the championship.

This time Norman heads into the final round of the PGA Championship in the lead again, fresh from a pulsating triumph in the British Open at Royal St. George's, where he exorcised all those demons that had haunted him for seven years. "When I finished the third round of the British Open," Norman said, "I said, 'I wish it never ended.' I said the same thing about the fourth round. I wish it would just go on."

As a good segment of the world of international golf saw their names go up and down the leader board on a sultry and hazy afternoon in yesterday's third round, Norman coasted home in 10-under figures of 68-68-67203. He could become the first to win the British Open and the PGA Championship since Walter Hagen in 1924, the first to win two of the game's major championships in the same year since Tom Watson won the U.S./British double in 1982. He could become the first to break 70 in all four rounds of a major in successive tournaments.

Norman led Tway by four shots in 1986 and had led all four rounds, but he has just a one-stroke lead over Vijay Singh (73) of Fiji, former champion Lanny Wadkins (71), three-time U.S. Open champion Hale Irwin (67), Bob Estes (69), New England Classic champion Paul Azinger (69) and U.S. Ryder Cup captain Tom Watson (70). Brad Faxon fired the day's low round of 65 and ended up at 205 with Dudley Hart (71), Nick Faldo (69) and Scott Simpson (71).

There are 17 players within four shots as proud but defenseless Inverness continued to be taken apart by the shot-making of the game's best internationalists. "It doesn't make it a lesser event just because there are low scores," Azinger said. "I think it makes it a better event. Ken Venturi [CBS commentator] said it was the most exciting Saturday telecast he can remember. It was pretty exciting out there."

So it was, with Wadkins holing out a 143-yard 8-iron for an eaglon the 11th to get to 11-under and enliven his chances to make his eighth Ryder Cup team. He slipped when his second shot caught branches on the 15th and he had to hit a 5-iron third shot on the 465-yard par 4. He then bogeyed the 17th out of a bunker to fall one shot behind Norman.

"I had a lot of ups and downs," Wadkins said, "but it all added up to even par."

Norman, who gouged out a glorious 64 in the final round at Royal St. George's to beat Faldo by two shots and Masters champion Bernhard Langer by three, said, "I'm happy with the way I feel on the golf course. I'm happy with the way the putter feels in my hands. I'm happy with the way I'm visualizing my shots. The pace of play is wonderful. Tomorrow I'm just going to go out there and play."

This was a round to savor, even though there were bogeys on the ninth out of a bunker and the 15th with three putts from 15 feet. Norman, who is hoarse from a minor bout with the flu, had birdies on the second (9-iron, 7 feet), eighth (sand wedge, 4 feet), 10th (45-foot pitch), 13th (two putts, 20 feet), 14th (7-iron, 15 feet) and 16th (pitching wedge, 10 feet) and is where he wants to be.

"I feel very good about my game," he said.

Irwin, who won the 1979 U.S. Open at Inverness, birdied the 17th and 18th with putts of 10 to 12 feet.

"What I've tried to do through the course of the week is to play to my strength," Irwin said.

"The smart way to play this course is not to get too aggressive. You can eliminate that by playing it to the middle of these small greens. I bogeyed for the first time on my 39th hole, and I've had just two bogeys."

This is one more chance for Azinger to win that elusive first major championship, and he played a steady round with just one bogey on the sixth hole.

"The greens were a little harder today," Azinger said. "There was no wind. I hit it extremely well from tee to green. I felt I hit a lot of putts where I was looking, but I didn't make any. I had good opportunities on 16, 17 and 18. I've got another opportunity. I've got enough experience to know how to go out and play the game."

Watson can become the fifth to win all four of golf's major championships if he holds up. He played the incoming nine with birdies on the 10th and 14th and threw in seven pars.

"I didn't play particularly well," he said, "but I got a lot out of it. I had two chip-ins [seventh, 14th], and I made several long putts. I felt comfortable with my putter.

"I'll have to shoot in the 60s to win. You'll see Tom Watson try his damnedest. I don't have too many years left."



The leader . . .

Greg Norman .. .. 68-68-67--203 . . . and selected followers

Bob Estes .. .. 69-66-69--204 Paul Azinger .. 69-66-69--204 Tom Watson .. ..69-65-70--204 Vijay Singh .. 68-63-73--204 Lanny Wadkins..65-68-71--204 Hale Irwin .. 68-69-67--204 Brad Faxon .. 70-70-65--205 Nick Faldo .. 68-68-69--205 Dudley Hart ..66-68-71--205 Scott Simpson ..64-70-71--205 John Cook .. ..72-66-68--206 Jim McGovern ..71-67-69--207 +

Complete scores: 16C

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