Originally created 03/19/00

Love, Tiger to duel Sunday



ORLANDO, Fla. -- Arms crossed at the back of the 16th green after making a 12-foot putt for his second eagle in five holes, Davis Love III looked over his shoulder and squinted at the leaderboard in the distance.

He was on his way to a 9-under 63, a remarkable score in the swirling wind Saturday, and realized he would be close to the lead. He also knew what awaited.

Another crack at Tiger Woods.

Sure enough, Woods maintained his lead with four solid par saves and three more birdies on the par-5s, giving him a 5-under 67 and a two-stroke lead over Love going into the final round of the Bay Hill Invitational.

"He's playing spectacular golf, and that's hard to beat," Love said.

No one knows that better than Love.

Love is 0-4 against Woods, dating to the 1996 Las Vegas Invitational when Woods beat him in a playoff. Their meetings have become more frequent lately, three head-to-head battles in the past four months, all decisively in Woods' favor.

Advantage Woods?

"I don't know," he said. "You can look at it two different ways. You can say he's due, or there could be an advantage."

Under a brief downpour at the end of a hot, blustery day, Woods made his fourth solid par save out of thick rough on the 18th to maintain his cushion. He was at 16-under 200.

Love began the day thinking about a new motorcycle he wants to buy. He walked off with a one of the best rounds ever at Bay Hill considering the conditions. He made two eagles on the back nine, chipped in twice, holed two putts over 30 feet from on the fringe and didn't break any sprinkler heads.

That's the good news. All he has to do now if figure out how to catch Woods, and actually beat him.

"If anybody starts beating you like that, you start thinking, `Can I beat him?' And he thrives on that," Love said. "He's No. 1 -- there's no getting around that. And he's hard to beat -- there's no getting around that.

"It would be a big thing to be the one who jumps up on Sunday and beats him."

History doesn't favor that guy being Love.

Woods cruised to a four-stroke victory over Love in the Tour Championship, then whipped him in match play in the unofficial Grand Slam of Golf in Hawaii. The most crushing blow came last month in the Match Play Championship, in which Love didn't win a single hole as Woods recorded a 5 and 4 victory in the semifinals.

Woods has another piece of history in his corner.

Since losing the Quad City Classic in just his third tournament as a pro, Woods has won 12 straight PGA Tour events, and 14 tournaments worldwide, in which he has had at least a share of the the 54-hole lead.

"I've always been a big believer in that they've got to come get me," Woods said of his first outright 54-hole lead since the Tour Championship in late October.

The last two meetings with Love have come in match play, and that could be what Sunday turns out to be.

Woods' chief challenger Saturday was Mike Weir, against whom he also has a good track record. Just like the Western Open and the PGA Championship, Woods quickly put distance between himself and the left-handed Canadian.

Weir bogeyed two of the first three holes and had to scramble for a 72, which left him six strokes back at 206.

Unlike the damp, calm conditions of Friday, the wind swirled so much that Woods, Love and others often stood perplexed in the fairways, caddies at their side as they tried to figure which club to hit.

Woods went back and forth three times with a club on the par-3 second hole and pulled it left into the gallery, leading to his only bogey of the day. He recovered with birdies on three of the par-5s and brilliant touch out of the clumpy rough when he misjudged the wind and flew the green.

"I thought it was difficult to shoot a low round, but Davis proved otherwise," Woods said.

Love wasn't even in the picture when he went bunker to bunker on the 10th and took bogey to fall five strokes back. The rest of the round left him smiling, as though he knew he stole a great score out of a tough day.

Love, who had only 21 putts in his round, holed a 50-footer from the fringe on No. 11, chipped in for eagle from 25 feet on the par-5 12th, added a 6-foot birdie putt on the 13th and then realized it was his day on No. 15.

He chunked a sand wedge from 103 yards and was well short of the green, then chipped in from 40 feet for birdie.

"I feel like I'm overdue," said Love, who hasn't won since the MCI Classic in 1998. "When Tiger wins every other week, it's hard to find your week to win."

Divots: Aaron Baddeley's 19th birthday wasn't a total loss just because he missed the cut. His father bought him "A Golfer's Life," the autobiography of Arnold Palmer, and had it signed by Palmer and Baddeley's three practice round partners -- Tiger Woods, Mark O'Meara and Sergio Garcia. ... Among those in the gallery watching Woods in the third round was the Atlanta Braves' Bobby Bonilla. ... Bay Hill officials cracked down hard on cameras in the gallery Saturday, invoking the strictest policy of taking them away and giving the violators claim checks. By the fourth hole, one official had confiscated nine cameras. ... The course record is 9-under 62 set by Andy Bean in 1981. Love tied the course record in relation to par with his 9-under 63, matched previously by Greg Norman, Fred Couples and Stuart Appleby.



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