PLAYA DEL CARMEN, Mexico (AP) His tee shot stopped against a tree root in a scrubby area, Bo Van Pelt considered his options. He finally decided to try punching it back toward the fairway, then took a mighty whack.
The ball moved all of 6 inches.
Another punch and a beautiful pitch later, Van Pelt stood on the ninth green waiting for a tap-in bogey and smiling. He made the turn in a good mood, telling himself how much worse it could have been.
Van Pelt stayed out of trouble the rest of the day, shooting a 3-under 67 on Saturday to catch Mark Wilson for the lead at the Mayakoba Golf Classic. Wilson shot a 69, leaving both at 11-under 199 through three rounds of the PGA Tour's annual stop south of the border.
Van Pelt led after one round and Wilson was the co-leader after the second round. Now the two Midwestern boys who grew up playing against each other as teenagers will be in the final group Sunday, Wilson seeking his second career PGA Tour win and Van Pelt his first.
"You can't think that," Wilson said. "So many guys are in it still. If we start playing against each other, guys are going to steamroll right past us."
Briny Baird will join them in the final group Sunday. He shot a 67 to get within a stroke.
J.J. Henry (69) was another stroke behind at the 6,923-yard, par-70 El Camaleon course designed by Greg Norman.
Kevin Na, who opened the day tied with Wilson atop the leaderboard, shot a 72 to join Jarrod Lyle (66) and Chris Riley (69) at 8 under.
Van Pelt was coming off his first birdie of the day when he got in trouble with his errant tee shot. He was hoping it got stuck near the portable toilets - a manmade obstruction, and thus a free drop - but wasn't that lucky.
"I got about what I deserved," he said, laughing. "My caddie and I were trying to figure out some way to just pitch it out to where I might get the next one on the green. I could have taken unplayable and kind of gone way back over on the other fairway on 4. ... I just miss-hit it pretty poorly."
Van Pelt kept steady with a string of pars, then got on a roll with three birdies in four holes.
The second of that streak came at No. 15 and tied Wilson for the lead. He needed another on 16 to keep pace after Wilson chipped in from the fringe. Then Van Pelt made a tough par save on No. 17 after his approach rolled way down the side of the green.
On the 18th hole, Van Pelt - who is a head taller than Wilson, and probably a bag full of clubs heavier - boomed his drive 30 yards past Wilson's and right down the middle. After knocking his approach about 25 feet past the pin, he was so sure his birdie putt was going to fall that he started breaking into a big fist pump. When the ball scooted a few inches past the cup all he could do was laugh at his premature celebration.
"It looked really good to me from about a foot out," Van Pelt said. "After hitting a good drive like that, I wanted to make birdie there on the last hole. ... But it was a good putt anyway."
Wilson's round had far less drama - well, after an interesting start.
"The very first hole I hit a chip shot that landed on Bo's golf ball on the green (and) ricocheted off the green," he said. "Instead of having a short birdie putt, I ended up making par."
Wilson made two bogeys, but erased both with birdies on the next hole both times. His only other notable hole was the chip-in from the fringe on No. 16.
He normally would've putted from there, but a ball mark bruised the path. Na's marker was just outside where he was aiming, and he even used it to help line up his shot. The ball came awfully close to touching the marker on its way to trickling into the side of the hole.
"Kevin thought he had an assist there," Wilson said. "I told him, no, it would have gone more in the center if it hadn't hit it."
The leaders were asked if they had any big plans for their Saturday night in this resort town facing the Caribbean Sea. Van Pelt laughed and talked about going to bed by 8:30 every night because he brought his three kids on the trip. Wilson said he planned on being in bed early, too.
"It's the PGA Tour in 2009, not 1970," he said, smiling. "A little bit different."