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Stricker leads Choi by 1 at Barclays

Steve Stricker, Third Round, The Barclays, FedEx Cup playoffs
Ed Betz/AP
Steve Stricker made three birdies on the back nine to shoot a 65.

HARRISON, N.Y. (AP) — Steve Stricker kept pouring in birdies at The Barclays until he had the lead to himself, and it wasn't long before an electronic scoreboard projected Stricker atop the PGA Tour Playoffs.

Right now, Stricker isn't the least bit worried about the FedEx Cup or its $10 million prize.

All he wants is a trophy.

In a season of blown opportunities, Stricker gave himself the best chance yet Saturday with a 6-under 65 that allowed him to zoom past K.J. Choi and take a one-shot lead into the final round at soft, vulnerable Westchester Country Club.

Stricker has either been tied or within one shot of the lead in the last round of four tournaments this year — two of them majors — but still is searching for his first victory since 2001.

"One of these times, it's going to come out in my favor," said Stricker, whose 14-under 199 tied the 54-hole tournament record.

This time, at least he has the lead.

It was the first time Stricker has had at least a share of the 54-hole lead in nine years, and not since the 1996 Western Open has he had the outright lead going into the last round.

That won't make winning any easier.

Choi lost control of his fade shot off the tee along the back nine, but a birdie-birdie finish enabled him to salvage a 70, leaving him only one shot behind. Hunter Mahan tied a tournament scoring record for the second time in five weeks, this one a 9-under 62 that took him from the middle of the pack to only two shots behind.

And then there was Rich Beem, perhaps the most desperate contender.

Needing a top-10 finish to avoid elimination from these four-week playoffs, Beem overcame a rocky start with an eagle on the ninth hole that sent him to a 69. He also was two behind at 201, his best position going into Sunday since the Nissan Open in February.

"It's going to be fun for me," Beem said.

But it all starts with Stricker, who is no stranger to the Sunday pressure.

Having lost his PGA Tour card a few years ago, Stricker had to pound balls in the Wisconsin snow to get his game back. He was PGA Tour comeback player of the year in 2006, he made the Presidents Cup team for the first time in 11 years, and he has done just about everything but win.

"I haven't been beating myself up about not winning any of those events, but obviously, I would like to win," Stricker said. "It's been a long time since I've won, and I'm just going to try to bring as many positive thoughts to the table tomorrow as I can."

For now, he was thrilled to simply be in this position.

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