Mon, Oct 30, 2006 - Page 18 News List

KJ Choi maintains one-shot lead over Els, Gay, Goydos


K.J. Choi pumps his fist after saving par on the 16th hole during the third round of the Chrysler Championship in Palm Harbor, Florida, on Saturday.


K.J. Choi made a 10-foot birdie putt on the 18th hole to finish the third round of the Chrysler Championship the same way he started, with a one-shot lead over Ernie Els and two others.

In a blustery round in which six players had at least a share of the lead, Choi overcame a few problems on the Copperhead course at Innisbrook for a 1-under 70 that left him one shot clear of Els (70), Brian Gay (70) and resurgent Paul Goydos (69), who was No. 160 on the US tour's Order of Merit and now has a chance to avoid qualifying school.

Choi never made more than three pars in a row, and that was on the back nine when he was trying to hang on. He was at 9-under 204 and will try to win this tournament for the second time in five years.

"It was really tough, up and down," Choi said.

Els is in good shape to collect his first victory of the year, but needed to recover with birdies on the par 5s on the back nine. Gay was three shots behind until birdies on two of the tougher holes at Innisbrook, Nos. 16 and 17, and a good save from below the slope on the 18th green to get into the final group.

The biggest surprise was the tour's hottest player, Troy Matteson. He started the day eight shots behind, was 5 under through his first five holes and wound up with a 64, leaving himself only two shots behind going into the final round.

The disappointment belonged to Jonathan Byrd, who had a one-shot lead at the turn until losing three shots on two holes and needing to make a 12-foot par putt to limit the damage. Byrd wound up with a 73 and was at 208, along Disney winner Joe Durant (67) and Jason Bohn (68), who is making a late bid to get into the Masters.

This is the final full-event of the year, with players trying to finish in the top 30 on the money list to get into the Tour Championship, the top 40 for the US Masters, or the top 125 to get their card for the 2007 FedExCup competition that starts next year.

Goydos had no expectations coming into the week. He's 160th on the money list and hasn't won in 10 years. Now, he is the only player to post three straight rounds in the 60s and needs to finish at least fourth alone to secure his card for next year. Better yet would be a victory, which suddenly seems plausible.

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