Originally created 05/16/04

Sergio surges into lead at Nelson



IRVING, Texas -- With awesome control from tee to green, Sergio Garcia figured his 5-under 65 should have been a little lower, and his two-shot lead at the Byron Nelson Championship a little larger.

Tiger Woods was so wild it's a wonder he didn't shoot higher than 70, and that he's only three shots behind.

Garcia hit every green in regulation and missed only one fairway on the TPC at Las Colinas, taking advantage of another Saturday swoon by Woods to build a two-shot lead over Jerry Kelly.

The 24-year-old Spaniard is playing so well - he hasn't missed a green since the 13th hole of the second round - that it made no different nine players were within four shots of the lead.

Asked who was the bigger threat - Woods three behind or Vijay Singh four shots back - Garcia smiled.

"Myself," he said. "If I don't beat myself out there, I should be OK."

Garcia, winless on the PGA Tour the last two years while retooling his swing, was at 11-under 199. It was only the second time on the PGA Tour, and fourth time worldwide, he had had the lead going into the final round. He won two of those events, the 2001 Buick Classic and the 2002 Spanish Open.

"I feel like I should be leading by quite a lot more," said Garcia, who missed seven birdie putts inside 15 feet.

Kelly didn't feel comfortable with the driver, but he at least kept in play during his bogey-free round of 67, putting him in the final group with Garcia. They last played together in the final round of the Masters, where Garcia closed with a 66 to finish third.

Woods didn't feel comfortable with any club in hand on the tee box, and he paid for it.

For the second week in a row, Woods let a 36-hole lead slip away quickly. He lost the lead with a three-putt bogey on the second hole, and had to play hard - usually from the rough - to stay in range. Woods went the final seven holes without hitting a fairway or making a birdie.

He was at 8-under 202, along with Deanne Pappas of South Africa after a 66.

Singh, among eight players who had a share of the lead at one point, played the final 10 holes in 2 over and settled for a 68, leaving him in a large group at 203 that included Mark O'Meara (70) and Luke Donald of England. Donald was in the middle of the pack until an eagle-birdie-par finish gave him a 64, the low round of the day.

Woods had a 75 last week at Quail Hollow to go from a two-shot lead to five shots behind. This time, he managed to limit the damage with incredible shots from the rough, although he also missed several good birdie chances.

He could do without the excitement.

"Down the fairway, middle of the green," Woods said after his round. "The whole thing is getting it going tomorrow. I need to be in the fairway more, and give myself some better looks at putts. Today, I made nothing."

Good thing for him and everyone else that Garcia didn't make much, either.

"You've got to realize when you give yourself so many chances, you're going to miss more than some other guys," Garcia said. "Some of those guys, if they're struggling a bit, they know they have to make those putts."

Garcia made his professional debut on the PGA Tour five years ago at the Byron Nelson as a fresh-faced teenager who didn't have a care in the world - or a driver's license, for that matter - and won over the hearts of the Texas gallery with his go-for-broke style.

It's a wonder they still recognize him.

Garcia was the model of consistency, splitting the middle of every fairway after his opening tee shot found the rough. He takes a streak of 23 consecutive greens in regulation into the final round Sunday.

Woods was a polar opposite.

Even before he teed it off, it was evident this would be a day for low scoring - only a mild breeze, the sun starting to break through the clouds, and several guys posting birdies by the bunches.

Woods, however, threw it into reverse. He rammed a 35-foot birdie putt some 8 feet past the hole at No. 2 and wound up with his first three-putt since the 13th hole of the third round at the Masters, a streak of 132 holes. Then, he came up short on the par-3 fifth, the ball trickling down a slope along the edge of the bunker, and chipped 15 feet past the hole to take another bogey.

Three birdies in a five-hole stretch gave him a share of the lead, but Woods didn't find another fairway after the 11th hole. His tee shot on the 14th - with an iron, no less - was so close to the water hazard that he had to pitch out under a tree to the middle of the fairway and wound up with bogey.

When his final drive drifted into the right rough, Woods cupped the top of his cap and tugged it slightly over his eyes, snatching the tee from the ground in obvious frustration.

Then again, he's still very much in the picture.

Woods escaped from behind a tree on No. 12, the shaft hitting the trunk on his follow-through, and knocked it to 12 feet. On the 15th, he hit through a gap of trees with a fade to within 18 feet. And on the final hole, he carved another shot around the trees to 12 feet.

He missed all of those birdie chances, and wound up with a three-shot deficit against a guy not making many mistakes.

Divots: Hank Kuehne got into the mix with a 65, leaving him at 6-under 204. The longest hitter on the PGA Tour failed to birdie both par 5s. ... Kelly is struggling so much with his driver that he's trying just about any brand. He had about 20 in his locker at the start of the week, and tried all 20. How long before he discards them? "Three swings," he said. ... Ernie Els had a 66 and was six shots behind.