Originally created 06/03/01

Azinger holds onto lead over Woods in suspended third round



DUBLIN, Ohio -- Paul Azinger couldn't finish what he started Saturday in the third round of the rain-plagued Memorial. He had to settle for something else -- holding Tiger Woods off for at least another day.

Azinger made two birdies on the back nine as darkness began to set on the course to keep the same two-shot margin he began with on a day when rain delays pushed back play so much the leaders were unable to finish their rounds.

Play was suspended twice and the leaders waited four hours past their tee times to actually play as rain, hail and lightning moved across the Muirfield Village Golf Club once again.

"I didn't get frustrated. I really just felt like, you know, I could not win the tournament today," Azinger said. "The conditions are tough and you are going to make some bogeys."

Azinger couldn't win it, but he could have lost it if he hadn't come back from back-to-back bogeys on the front nine to play 3 under the final eight holes and regain the lead.

"The conditions were really severe and I just had to keep patient," Azinger said.

Azinger knocked in a 12-footer on the 13th hole to get to 11 under, two strokes ahead of Woods and Sergio Garcia, who were playing together in the group ahead. Also at 9 under was Stuart Appleby, who birdied the 15th hole before quitting for the day.

Azinger finished 14 holes, while Woods and Garcia hit to the 15th green before marking their balls.

"I've got a good eagle chance so hopefully I'll make that one or at least a birdie," Garcia said.

A total of 25 players were left on the course and were scheduled to return at 8:30 a.m. Sunday to finish their third rounds before the final 18 holes.

Woods hurried off the course without commenting to get ready for a long day Sunday.

"I'm disappointed we have to come out in the morning," Azinger said.

Woods, playing with Garcia in a pairing that drew most of the crowds who stayed around during the delays, was in the lead by himself after a birdie on the seventh hole. But he didn't make another birdie, and he bogeyed the short par-3 12th.

Azinger, meanwhile, birdied the par-5 11th hole with a middle iron to within 18 inches and added a final birdie on 13 to get to 2 under for the day and 11 under for the tournament.

He was hitting 3-wood off the tee after breaking his driver after a poor drive on the sixth tee.

"I haven't missed a fairway since," he quipped.

The closest player to the leaders to finish his round was Stewart Cink, who birdied Nos. 15-17 to get to 8 under and give himself a chance to sleep in Sunday morning.

"I don't think it gives you an advantage," Cink said. "I think the guys who finish in the morning might get some momentum if they get a birdie."

Woods, trying to do something even he hasn't done as a pro -- win a tournament three straight years -- was laughing and loose on the driving range as his tee time was moved later and later.

He ran off three birdies in the first seven holes and appeared ready to seize command of the tournament, but then played his final seven holes 1 over.

Garcia, meanwhile, had said Woods needed to watch him during the round. But he was shaky on the front nine, hitting it into four greenside bunkers, and bogeyed the 10th hole. Garcia then birdied 12 and 13 to move into the three-way tie for second.

Chris Smith, the first-round co-leader and local favorite who was playing in the final group with Azinger, shot himself out of contention with a 41 on the front nine and a double bogey on the 10th hole.

The weather delays followed a delay of two hours on Friday and made it 18 rounds out of 51 that have been interfered with by weather in recent years in the Memorial.

Azinger joked with players while waiting for his tee time, saying it was a time-honored way of passing time.

"You socialize, you tell a few stories and you solve the world's problems," he said.