Stuart Appleby roller-coastered his way to a two-stroke lead over K.J. Choi with one round to play at the AT&T National on Saturday.
Tournament host Tiger Woods, meanwhile, made par on 15 of 18 holes and rued what could have been. Putt after putt missed by just inches - a 37-footer at No. 2, a 6-footer at No. 3, a 21-footer at No. 13, a 14-footer at No. 14. The result was a 69 that gave him a 208 total and tied for eighth - seven shots off the lead.
"I turned a 63 or 64 into a 69 very smoothly," Woods said without exaggeration.
He had six birdie putts that stopped less than a foot from the hole, and two more that settled less than 2 feet away on a hot and humid afternoon at Congressional Country Club.
Appleby, playing with a hairline crack in his driver, shot 2-under 68 for a 9-under 201 total, putting him in position to win the event that bears the name of his good friend and neighbor in Orlando, Florida.
"I'm not concerned who honors an event or who titles an event or anything," said Appleby, seeking his ninth tour victory and first of 2007. "Because winning, once you've won or had a drought, it feels great. And not winning feels a little shallow and empty. So if I could join all the good feelings in winning and with Tiger, his inaugural event - I'm sure I'll let him know. He'll be back at me, trust me. He's got a quick tongue."
For every breathtaking iron shot - such as the approach to 5 feet at No. 3 - there was a hole such as No. 12, when the Aussie found the rough with his tee shot and three-putted for a bogey.
Appleby's round included five birdies, three bogeys and par saves such as the nervy 10-foot putt at the 18th, a change of pace from the steady play that had put him in a tie for the lead after two rounds when he had only two bogeys in his first 36 holes - fewest in the field.
"It was a demanding golf course today," Appleby said. "There was a little bit more respect to be had, watching for the balls to be bouncing off the fairways and running with the contours a little bit more."
Then, at the 16th tee box, Appleby discovered a barely visible hairline fracture in his driver. A rules official declared the club was not "substantially unfit" and therefore could remain in Appleby's bag - which is a good thing for him because he likes the way it is striking the ball. Besides, he didn't bring a backup driver to this tournament.
"I could have 50 more shots in it. I could have one," Appleby said. "Probably makes better sense to probably see if I can rustle one up."
Woods' frustration showed at No. 18, when he had his only bogey of the day. He made two angry swipes with his club after driving his tee shot into the left rough. His only birdies came at Nos. 1 and 16 - and the 20-footer at the first hole was his longest made putt of the day.
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