Baird challenges Chopra, Estes as 3rd round suspended

Baird challenges Chopra, Estes as 3rd round suspended

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. (AP) — Briny Baird just moved into a new house, only a couple minutes down the road from Tesoro Club.

No wonder he seemed right at home Saturday.

Making a huge move up the leaderboard, Baird’s eight-birdie, one-bogey effort through 15 holes got him to 14 under and within two shots of leaders Bob Estes and Daniel Chopra during the suspended third round at the Ginn sur Mer Classic.

“So far, so good,” Baird said. “I hit it good and I made some putts. Hit a couple of loose shots that weren’t quite perfect and could have found the rough, but they turned out fine in the fairway.”

Estes and Chopra made it through 11 holes of their third rounds, before play was halted at 6:38 p.m. Both were at 16 under for the tournament; Estes was 2 under in his third round, Chopra was 3 under, and they each left long birdie putts at the par-3 12th when they headed in for the evening.

“We could have finished if we had to, but we didn’t need to and it was getting dark,” Chopra said. “These greens, it’s not just slope you have to read. You have to read grain … if we were in 30th spot, we would have gone ahead and putted out, but there’s a lot at stake now.”

A lot, indeed: $810,000 goes to Sunday’s eventual winner.

By nightfall Saturday, 13 players were within five shots of the lead, setting the stage for what could be a wild Sunday on an already-wet course. In all, 39 players finished and 34 will return Sunday morning to complete the third round – which was on about a six-hour pace because of the long gaps between tees and greens and the still-wet conditions.

Shigeki Maruyama got to 14 under through 14 holes and was tied for third with Baird. Fredrik Jacobsen was alone in fifth at 13 under through 14 holes, and Cameron Beckman – who entered the week in 128th place on the money list, desperate to get into that top 125 and earn full playing privileges for 2008 – shot a 67 to get to 12 under, which is where Tommy Armour III was when play ended.

Baird had one blemish on his card Saturday, a bogey at the par-3 fourth. He was 6 under over his next 10 holes, leapfrogging 13 players to get firmly into contention for what could be his first PGA Tour win in 243 career starts.

“I will definitely be a member here. … It’s awesome anytime you have a chance to play well at home,” Baird said.

The first two rounds of the event seemed like a runaway, with Estes, Chopra and Armour III going a combined 41 under by the tournament’s midpoint. They cooled off – that trio was a combined 3 under Saturday – and the leaderboard tightened considerably.

Chopra’s run of 40 straight bogey-free holes ended at the par-4 fifth, when he missed the green and had a difficult lie for his third. He chipped to 18 feet, then saw his par try slide past – a miss that gave Estes the outright lead by one at 15 under.

They switched positions one hole later in a two-shot swing. Chopra rolled in a 15-footer for birdie at the par-4 sixth, while Estes made bogey to fall one shot back. One hole later, it was Estes’ turn to rally with birdie, and they remained knotted the rest of the day.

Meanwhile, John Daly’s day went kaput on the 11th green.

Daly made birdie on his final hole of the second round Saturday morning to reach 2 under and barely make the cut, and said afterward he felt like his game was coming around after a difficult season.

But two holes into his third round, he four-putted his way to quadruple bogey – his third of the year. Daly started on the back nine, needed five strokes to get in from just shy of the green at the par-5 11th, and wound up at 1 over after 14 holes when play was suspended.

Notes: Russ Cochran (72, 5 under) made a tour cut for the first time since the 2004 Buick Championship. He got in the field as an alternate. … Three players withdrew Saturday before the rain-delayed second round resumed, citing no reason: Robert Damron, Richard S. Johnson and Michael Bradley. None were inside the projected cut line. … The second round ended at 11:49 a.m. after another 1-hour delay because of the wet grounds. More than 2 inches of rain fell Friday at Tesoro Club, which was already soaked before that deluge.

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