Angus Murray
Thursday, July 30, 2009

CHASKA, Minn. (AP) — Just when Ernie Els appeared to be making a move to challenge Tiger Woods at the PGA Championship on Saturday, the South African hit the brick wall at Hazeltine National known as No. 16.

Sitting at 6 under and two strokes back of Woods when he walked to the tee box on the course's signature hole, Els pushed his tee shot well left, a mistake that led to the first of three straight bogeys to finish the day.

Els shot 2-under 70 and to finish the day at 213, five shots behind Woods, a disappointing end to a round that began with so much promise.

"All kind of fell apart on me at the end there," Els said. "But I've got to take a lot out of it today."

Els started the day at 1 under. After a bogey on No. 5, he birdied four of the next six holes to get the Hazeltine crowd roaring on his behalf as he dropped to 5 under.

"The crowd was unbelievable," Els said. "Felt like a home game to me.

"They were standing up in the stands when I was coming up to some of the greens. So really a wonderful reception we got today from the crowd. And I could really feel they were pulling for me. So that's why it's even more disappointing finishing it off today."

A beautiful drive on No. 15 set up a 6-foot birdie putt that moved him to 6 under, but he bogeyed 16 and then missed a putt from inside of 2 feet on 17. The spiral continued on 18 as the rain began to fall, and now it will take a big rally on Sunday to catch Woods, who has never lost a major when leading after 54 holes.

Els is looking for his first PGA Tour victory since the 2008 Honda Classic.

"A lot of good things happened, the finish just wasn't great," Els said. "But I'm not totally out of it. Probably need something like that tomorrow and obviously got to finish it off tomorrow."

GLOVER'S UP AND DOWN: U.S. Open champion Lucas Glover has more birdies than Tiger Woods through the first three rounds of the PGA Championship.

But the mistakes he has been making at Hazeltine have cost him dearly heading into Sunday's final round. Glover shot 1 under 71 on Saturday and is 4 under for the tournament, four strokes back of Woods, who has 12 birdies to Glover's 13 this week.

"Yeah, it wasn't all there today, but not too unhappy with 1-under," Glover said. "I feel like I left a few out there with my putter, but you know, played all right and still right there. So you know, something crazy tomorrow, you never know."

The difference so far has been Glover's seven bogeys. He had two on the back nine on Saturday - Nos. 10 and 13 - to stunt his progress.

"I've been driving it good. I've been doing that all year, to be honest with you," Glover said. "That's why I've been playing well on some difficult golf courses. I've been driving it good and making a lot of my short putts. When you do that on a hard course, you're going to do all right."

And there are far worse places to be on the final day of a major than four strokes back.

"We all know how Tiger is the last round, so it's going to take something crazy, but you know, I made a bunch of birdies this week," he said. "I just need to putt a bunch together in one round."

BACK TO EARTH: Grant Sturgeon's short game finally caught up with him.

The club pro, who was even par through the first two days of the PGA Championship, blew up with an 8-over 80 on Saturday. He plummeted from a tie for 13th after 36 holes to a tie for 70th.

"I just struggled," he said. "The short game, it's just pretty bad. And you hit a few bad shots and it just turned into an 80."

Sturgeon is among 20 club pros who earned a spot into the final major of the year through the PGA Professional National Championship. There used to be 40 teachers among the touring pros, a number that keeps dwindling amid criticism in some corners that the teaching pros are watering down the strongest field of the year.

No club pro has finished in the top 20 in nearly two decades.

But Sturgeon reminded everyone that club pros are more than ceremonial players. His 36-hole score was better than major champions Phil Mickelson, Angel Cabrera, Stewart Cink, Zach Johnson, Fred Couples ... you get the picture.

"I was actually probably more calm today than I was the first two days," Sturgeon said. "I don't think that factored into me playing poorly. I just really struggled with my short game and put too much pressure on my long game and then I started to struggle a little bit."

Sturgeon bogeyed three of his first five holes and made two more on the back nine. He finished the day in particularly ugly fashion, making a triple-bogey on the par-4 18th.

"It was still awesome out there, I had an absolute blast," he said. "I'll go out there tomorrow and try to get back to what happened on Thursday and Friday."

JENKINS HONORED: The PGA held an honorary press conference on Saturday for famed journalist Dan Jenkins, who is covering his 201st major championship.

The author and Golf Digest columnist was at his very best during the press conference, serving up a big helping of his dry wit and hilarious one-liners.

"Somebody asked me, 'How long are you going to do this,"' the 79-year-old said. "I told them I'm not qualified to do anything else. I'll be here until they carry me out. The message on my tombstone will be, 'I knew this was coming."'

Jenkins has covered everyone from Ben Hogan to Jack Nicklaus to Tiger Woods and all golfers in between. He is showing his versatility at Hazeltine, offering up tweets for Golf Digest. This is the 45th PGA Championship he has covered.

"It's been great fun," Jenkins said. "And I'm delighted to be recognized for living this long."

DIVOTS: Tom Lehman, the only Minnesota native in the field, shot 76 and is tied for 55th at 6 over. ... South African Richard Sterne withdrew on the 15th hole because of an injury to his left hand. He was 5-over par when he withdrew. ... There were only two eagles for the round, one by Vijay Singh at the par-5 seventh hole and the other on the par-4 14th by Rich Beem, who won the PGA Championship here in 2002.

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