By petedirenzo
Saturday, March 21, 2009

Steve Stricker has seen the game of golf from all sides, including its underbelly. He has played well enough to win tournaments and poorly enough to nearly walk away from the game. Despite a bucketful of heartbreak in recent weeks - a collapse at the Bob Hope and a closing bogey to lose Riviera - he finds himself atop a leader board again, sharing a perch with Nick Watney. It's going to be fun to watch those two go head-to-head in Saturday's final pairing. Watney, who shared the final group with Phil Mickelson at Doral, is fast becoming a regular on the big stage. Get to know him. You'll be seeing him at the Presidents Cup.
One shot back is Charles Howell III, who normally would be gearing up for the Masters at this time of year but is currently not exempt. That would change with a victory. Once tabbed as the leader of generation next, Howell hasn't won a tournament in more than two years. His world ranking has slipped to 143rd. I'll be watching to see if this son of an Augusta, Ga., doctor can play his way into the Masters field for the eighth straight year.
FInally, I'll be keeping up with 17-year-old Ryo Ishikawa, who made the cut with a shot to spare, and Jim Furyk, who made the cut with no shots to spare after following his sterling 65 with a what-in-the-heck-happened 78. Furyk was fighting his swing and his putting stroke on a course where imprecision means trouble. The course is speeding up and mimicking a U.S. Open, so don't overlook Retief Goosen (U.S. Open champ in '01 and '04) who is one shot back.

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