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In the lead again, Stricker tries to hold off Baddeley, Woods

Aaron Baddeley, BMW, Third Round, FedEx Cup
Nam Y. Huh/AP
Aaron Baddeley birdied 18 to tie for the lead.

LEMONT, Ill. (AP) — Steve Stricker never saw his ball spin back into the cup for an eagle, but the raucous reaction from an adoring gallery Saturday at Cog Hill told him all he needed to know.

The cheers followed him all day in the BMW Championship.

It seems as if that's all Stricker has been hearing since these PGA Tour Playoffs began.

On a course that feels like home, Stricker had a birdie putt on every hole and converted the last one from 5 feet for a 7-under 64 that gave him a share of the lead with Aaron Baddeley, one shot clear of Tiger Woods.

Baddeley birdied his last two holes for a 65 that knocked Woods out of the final group. But the way Stricker has been going the last three weeks, maybe it was Woods who was relieved he didn't have to face him Sunday.

"Any other part of the country, they don't even know who I am," said Stricker, who played college golf at Illinois, grew up across the border in Wisconsin and had to scrounge up 50 tickets for family and friends. "I don't get this on a weekly basis, that's for sure."

Woods, a three-time winner at Cog Hill, made some noise of his own.

The BMW Championship came to life with sunshine and spectacular play, with Woods and Stricker matching birdies along the back nine until Stricker hit 6-iron to 5 feet for a birdie on the 18th hole that put him one shot ahead.

Woods missed only one fairway and two greens and was subdued after a 65 that he felt was the worst he could have scored. But he had no complaints about his position, one shot out of the lead.

"I felt like 6 under was the highest score I could have shot," Woods said. "But I'm in a good spot going into tomorrow."

Stricker and Woods played together the first two rounds because of their high standing in the playoffs, and it looked as though they would be paired on Sunday. Along came Baddeley, quietly lurking all afternoon, with a 30-foot birdie on the 17th and an approach into 5 feet on the final hole for a 65.

Stricker and Baddeley were at 15-under 198.

The third round of these PGA Tour Playoffs looks much like the first two events — terrific golf by the top players, setting the stage for what could be more great theater in the final round.

Stricker, who won the first playoff event at The Barclays for his first victory in 6 1/2 years, might be the hottest player in golf. Another victory would give him a commanding lead in the chase for the FedEx Cup, with Woods or the absent Phil Mickelson having to win the Tour Championship to catch him.

"I guess you just get in periods where it's very easy to concentrate, and I've been concentration very well," Stricker said. "There hasn't been a lot of things that have bothered me, and when I have played a bad hole, I really have done well with just letting it go."

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