Price slips but doesn't fall at PGA


TULSA, Okla. -- Nick Price will be looking to stop a couple of significant streaks today in the final round of the 76th PGA Championship at Southern Hills Country Club. The rest of the field, including a group of hungry Americans, will be looking to stop Price.

With his five-shot lead whittled to three, Price is trying to become the first player in 12 years to win back-to-back major championships. He is also trying to complete the first sweep of Grand Slam events by foreign-born players.

A round of even-par 70 yesterday, which included a wild closing seven holes, gave the 37-year-old from Zimbabwe a three-round total of 8-under 202, three shots ahead of Jay Haas, four better than both Corey Pavin and left-handed phenom Phil Mickelson.

"I think I'm going to have to play a little more positively than I did today," said Price, who has won four times this year, including the recent British Open at Turnberry in Scotland. "I was waiting for something to happen, instead of making something happen. Tomorrow, I'll have to play more aggressively because they're all going to be coming at me."

It looked as if an apparent run-away would turn into golf's version of a mosh pit when Price suffered his first bogey in a stretch of 38 holes after an approach to the notoriously tough par-4 12th landed under some trees, trimming his lead to one over Haas and two over both Pavin and John Cook.

Haas then made a triple-bogey at the par-4 15th to fall back to 3-under, his second triple in as many days, and Pavin's double-bogey at the par-3 14th put him at 3-under as well. But Haas recovered with consecutive birdies on the next two holes en route to a 2-under 68.

"I was glad I was able to do that," said Haas, 40, who has won nine times in his 18-year PGA Tour career. "Hopefully I won't have to deal with that [a triple bogey] tomorrow."

Pavin climbed back as well, but in a decidedly unique way -- by chipping in from 30 feet for birdie at the par-4 16th and, after flubbing a chip, holing out again to save par at the par-4 17th. For a player who is known for his consistency, Pavin's round included four birdies, a bogey and a double bogey.

"It was kind of a wild haul," Pavin said after an adventurous 1-under-par 69. "It was kind of a wild day."

It could get even wilder today, considering those who are in legitimate contention include some of the best Sunday players in golf. The three players who are five shots behind at 3-under 207 are Greg Norman, Ben Crenshaw and Cook, all of whom are capable of streaking in either direction.

In the group of five players at 2-under 208 are South Africa's Ernie Els, the reigning U.S. Open champion, reigning Masters champion Jose-Maria Olazabal of Spain, former PGA champion Jeff Sluman and Tom Watson, the last player to win back-to-back majors but who has never won this tournament.

"You've always got to give yourself a chance," said Norman, who did that yesterday with a bogey-free round of 3-under-par 67. "I know I have an opportunity. Whether Nick finishes at 8 or 9 [under], I still have a chance of finishing [first in] this golf tournament and that's a good feeling."

Of those within four shots of Price, none has won a major. The best finish Haas has had at a major has been fifth, including as a tour rookie here during the 1977 U.S. Open and again here during the 1982 PGA. Pavin is considered the best player in the world never to have won a major.

That was the title Paul Azinger had when he won last year's PGA at Inverness. It was a title some gave to Price before he won this tournament at Bellerive two years ago.

Asked if there was more pressure the longer he goes without a win, Pavin, 34, said, "I understand more what I have to do. As I go along, I try not to let it get in the way of me trying to win."

Said Haas: "Probably someone who hasn't won will feel it more than somebody who has. But when I play well, I don't feel the pressure."

If anything, Price likely will feel less pressure going into today's round than he did on the first tee yesterday. He said it was his worst round of the week, and he still managed to play even-par. He knows that he can't keep making pars today, as he did for the first 11 holes yesterday.

"It was a strange feeling going out there with a five-shot lead in a major championship," said Price, who has had at least a share of the lead since making a birdie at 16 Friday to tie Colin Montgomerie.

"It was a different situation. I have everything to lose. But I think if I go out and play like I did the first two days, I have a good chance to win."

Said Pavin, who is a neighbor of Price in Orlando, Fla.: "The tournament is basically in his hands. If he goes out and shoots a really good score, it will be awfully difficult to catch him. But if he goes out and shoots another 70, he can be caught."

He can be, but the way Price has played lately, he probably won't be.


The leader . . .

E9 Nick Price 67-65-70--202 . . . and selected followers

Jay Haas 71-66-68--205

Phil Mickelson 68-71-67--206

Corey Pavin 70-67-69--206

Ben Crenshaw 70-67-70--207

Greg Norman 71-69-67--207

Tom Watson 69-72-67--208

Ernie Els 68-71-69--208

Tom Kite 72-68-69--209

Bernhard Langer 73-71-67--211

Larry Mize 72-72-67--211

Nick Faldo 73-67-71--211

Fuzzy Zoeller 69-71-72--212

Hal Irwin 75-69-68--212

Curtis Strange 73-71-68--212

Fred Funk 76-69-72--217


Complete scores: 13C

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