CARNOUSTIE, Scotland — The horrendous weather predicted for Saturday at Carnoustie held off until the very end, and the players only had to deal with low temperatures and a mild, one-club breeze at the 136th British Open.
"Scoring weather," said Ernie Els, who rebounded from a triple-bogey 8 on the 6th hole with four back-nine birdies. He shot 68 and is three under for the tournament.
Several players went low Saturday: Steve Stricker tied the course record with a 64, Chris DiMarco fired a 66, and Pelle Edberg and Justin Rose posted 67s. But they were all chasing the man in orange, Sergio Garcia, who has led the entire week and refused to back up, shooting a nearly mistake-free 68 for a three-stroke lead.
"It is in his hands," Padraig Harrington said after also shooting 68 to get to three under overall, six back. "It is very much in his hands."
"It's right there for the taking," said Garcia, who has won six times on the PGA tour and six times on the European tour but is still in search of his first major victory.
Stricker will start Sunday three strokes behind, and it could be a two-man race. Seven players are at three-under, including Paul Broadhurst, K.J. Choi, Stewart Cink, DiMarco, Els, Harrington and Paul McGinley.
The hottest player in the game coming into this event, Choi played with Garcia and stayed within two strokes of the leader until making a bogey 6 on the 6th, the same hole that derailed Els (8) and Broadhurst (7). Choi never seemed to recover, making bogeys on the 8th and 18th holes for a 72.
"Today I bogeyed the last hole, but it's not the end of the world," said Choi, whose usually reliable long game deserted him Saturday, especially on 18, where he pushed his tee shot into the Barry Burn. "I think if I just prepare myself I'll have a good round (Sunday)."
Garcia has twice played in the final pairing in a major, both times with Tiger Woods. On those Sundays, Garcia shot himself out of contention on the front nine, but this is the first time he's held the lead going into the final day.
"I guess the good thing about it is even if you don't have the best of starts you're still there," Garcia said of starting with the lead. "But if you're behind and you don't have the best of starts, it feels like you're falling way back, and it feels like then you can't play as comfortably. You have to attack more and try to go for some pins that maybe you shouldn't and things like that.
"I haven't been in this position in a major, so I'm looking forward to it. And hopefully I'll be able to tell you more about it (Sunday) afternoon."
Woods has been erratic, at best, and will tee off well before the 27-year-old Garcia.
"It definitely doesn't hurt," Garcia said when asked about the prospect of playing nowhere near his nemesis on Sunday.