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A hat trick of birdies gives O'Hair the lead

Quinney was on his way to his 64 when the gallery came to life behind the second hole. Lonard had 211 yards to the front of the green, hit a 5-iron and couldn't see when the ball caught the slope and raced toward the hole.

"The reaction said it all," Lonard said. "But I didn't believe it until I picked it out of the hole."

That seemed to set the stage for plenty of excitement at Sawgrass. With only a gentle breeze and several hole locations that allowed for birdies, it was a race to see who could get to the top of the leaderboard and stay there.

And typical of this golf course, there was plenty of punishment.

Sergio Garcia made a swift climb into contention with eight birdies in 16 holes, only to finish by pulling a 6-iron into the water for double bogey, and getting defensive when someone asked about the shot.

"I didn't yank it, I just pulled it a little bit," Garcia said. "It went 2 yards into the water. It didn't go 30 yards in the water."

Davis Love III wasted a good round with a double bogey-triple bogey finish. Tom Pernice chipped across the 18th green and into the water on the final hole.

And there is always a nail-biting moment with Mickelson.

He was on the practice range at 8 a.m. — more than six hours before his tee time — with swing coach Butch Harmon, and the lesson seemed to pay off as Mickelson kept the ball inside the ropes and his name where everyone could see it. Then came a wayward tee shot on the par-5 ninth that led to bogey, and a tee shot into the bunker behind trees on the 10th.

Instead of the safe shot, Mickelson went through a tiny gap in the trees and onto the front of the green, escaping with par.

"It was plenty big for a ball to fit through," he said. "It was a tough enough shot where I felt like Bones (caddie Jim Mackay) would try to talk me out of it."

O'Hair never dreamed of a birdie-birdie-birdie finish. After a three-putt bogey on the 15th, he only wanted to hit the next fairway. His approach came up just short of the green, setting up a simple pitch for birdie.

Then came the 17th, where O'Hair figured he would be another victim.

"I just thought it was a good, solid 9-iron," O'Hair said. "I hit it exactly the way I wanted to, but as I hit it, the wind died. I was like, 'That's in the water.' It ended up being a great shot."

His expression told it all from the time the ball left his club until it settled 5 feet from the hole. As he stood there glaring, his face finally softened when he saw it land, and he slid his tongue out the side of his mouth, realizing his good fortune.

Luke Donald (65) and Carl Petterson (70) were among those in the group at 5-under 211, while U.S. Open champion Geoff Ogilvy was in the group five shots behind.

The most surprising contender might be Quinney.

He shot 83-80 last week at Wachovia and was in the middle of the pack going into the weekend at Sawgrass.

"This is not a course where you really want to come in struggling with your game, because Pete Dye is known for intimidating golf shots," Quinney said. "Golf is just a crazy game." homepage | Read the blog | Customizable leaderboard | Photos: Round 3

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