Steve Stricker has given himself plenty of chances to win this year, but none quite as good as this.
A burst of birdies at the Barclays carried Stricker to a six-under 65 and allowed him to zoom past K.J. Choi and into the lead on Saturday at the Westchester Country Club, the first time he has held the 54-hole lead in nine years.
Finishing it off for his first victory since 2001 won't be easy.
Choi overcame some errant tee shots on the back nine with a birdie-birdie finish to salvage a 70, leaving him only one shot behind. Hunter Mahan tied a tournament scoring record for the second time in five weeks, this one a nine-under 62 that took him from the middle of the pack to only two shots behind.
And then there was Rich Beem, perhaps the most desperate contender. Needing a top-10 finish to avoid ending his season in the inaugural PGA Tour Playoffs, Beem overcame a rocky start with an eagle on the ninth hole and a 69, giving him his best position in a final round since February.
But it all starts with Stricker, who was at 14-under 199, which tied the 54-hole record at the course.
He played in the final group at the British Open and was tied for the lead going into the back nine at the US Open, fading both times.
OCHOA LEADS BY A SHOT
Lorena Ochoa leads by a stroke going into the final round of the Safeway Classic, after a pair of bogeys to wrap up her Saturday narrowed an advantage over Sophie Gustafson.
Ochoa, who has won two straight tournaments, had eight birdies earlier in her round that helped her finish with a 66, giving her an 11-under 133 after two rounds at Columbia Edgewater County Club.
Gustafson, who shared the lead going into Saturday's round with rookie Oh Ji-young, had a 68 to go to 10-under 134.
Ochoa won the Canadian Women's Open in Edmonton, Alberta, last week. It was her second straight victory and fifth of the season. Her victory at the Women's British Open was her first major title.
After she bogeyed the par-four 17th hole, Ochoa's tee shot went into the trees on the par-four 18th. With her second shot into the rough in front of the green, Ochoa chipped within 3m -- but her putt lipped out for the bogey.
"I'm just happy about being in good position," Ochoa said. "And I'm ready."
Gustafson has not won on the tour since 2003. Her best finish this season was a tie for fifth at the Safeway International. She had five birdies and a bogey on Saturday.