Cejka has Tiger on his tail

 

The Players Championship:Germany's Alex Cejka extended his lead at The Players Championship but will have to deal with Tiger Woods in today's final pairing at TPC Sawgrass after shooting a level par 72. HIs playing partner in the third round, Ian Poulter, is also seeking his first win but dropped back to six under with a 74.

Prior to the third Woods was in a tie for 22nd place on four under. By day's end, after temperatures in the 80s and 90s sped up the greens at the Players Stadium Course, he led a six-man group including Poulter in a tie for second place on six under.

It is the largest third-round lead in the 36-year history of the event but Woods has already overcome the deficit in reeling in Sean O'Hair for victory at Bay Hill in March.

The Czech-born German birdied the last for a third-round 72 while Poulter came away with a disappointing three-over round of 75.

Woods shot a five-birdie, three-bogey 70 some two hours before the leaders finished and was also joined by Henrik Stenson of Sweden, South Africa's Retief Goosen and fellow Americans Jonathan Byrd and Ben Crane.

Lying a further shot back on five under were England's Brian Davis and American duo John Mallinger and Kevin Na, who got to nine under at the turn before carding a back nine of 40 for a two-over 74.

Ireland's Pádraig Harrington hit a 74 to finish at two over. "I drove the ball super today," said the Dubliner, a day after admitting his "addiction" to perfecting his swing and promising to get back to playing to his strengths.

Graeme McDowell carded a 77 for five over but finished outside the top 65 and will not play today.

Cejka birdied the fifth to go to 12 under but when he did slip up, also bogeying the seventh, Poulter failed to capitalise, bogeying the eighth to leave Na in sole possession of second place, only for the American to bogey the 10th and 11th.

Poulter fell further off the pace at the next hole, three-putting on the ninth green for a bogey six to slip to seven under, and there was more woe for the Englishman at the 11th, ranked second easiest on the course on Saturday, when his second shot from 254 yards out found water to the right of the green.

Poulter made amends from the drop zone 111 yards from the pin when he sent his fourth shot to seven feet from the hole but then missed the par putt to continue his slide.

Woods had also found trouble off the tee at 11, and played his second shot from the base of a pine tree left handed with a flipped over iron.

While that paid dividends his third shot from out of position on the right fairway demanded a cut around a tree but Woods' shot never turned back in from the left and he was forced to settle for a bogey six to fall to four under.

The setback was short-lived, however, as Woods birdied the 12th and overcame a bogey at 15 with back-to-back birdies at 16th and 17th to get to six under.

The world number one flirted with the rough and the water on his way to the 18th green but got up and down for par and a round of 70.

"Just grinding it out," Woods said. "This is basically our fifth major and that's how it's playing.

"It's hard, it's fast, it's dry and you just have to keep plodding along."

Also moving up the leaderboard was two-time US Open champion Goosen. The South African birdied the 14th and 16th holes to get to seven under but bogeyed the par-four 18th to fall back to six under.

Davis shot a 71 to finish at five under while fellow Englishman Justin Rose shot a 72 to finish his third round on three under, but compatriot Paul Casey shot a four over 76 to finish at one under for the week.

With 83 players making the weekend's play, tournament officials decided to make another cut after the third round to reduce the field further to the low 70 and ties.

World number two Phil Mickelson had briefly been at two over, the projected second cut line, but came home in 71, one under for the week, as did Luke Donald of England.

Defending champion Sergio Garcia posted a 73 to finish at one over.

Two over was still enough to reach the final round but Robert Karlsson, Martin Laird and McDowell were facing a Sunday off after finishing on the wrong side of the line.

Swede Karlsson's 75 sent him to three over, Scotland's Laird shot a four-over 76 to finish at three over while McDowell finished with a 77, five over for the week.

Collated third-round scores (USA unless stated, par 72):

205Alex Cejka (Ger) 66 67 72

210Ben Crane 65 73 72, Tiger Woods 71 69 70, Retief Goosen (Rsa) 67 72 71, Ian Poulter (Eng) 67 68 75, Jonathan Byrd 67 72 71, Henrik Stenson (Swe) 68 69 73

211Kevin Na 71 66 74, Brian Davis (Eng) 71 69 71, John Mallinger 66 71 74

212Kenny Perry 73 71 68, Richard S Johnson (Swe) 66 72 74, Daniel Chopra (Swe) 75 65 72, Woody Austin 72 72 68, Kevin Sutherland 73 67 72, Ben Curtis 71 72 69

213Michael Letzig 71 68 74, Steve Stricker 71 71 71, Jeff Overton 71 67 75, Zach Johnson 72 71 70, John Senden (Aus) 72 69 72, Billy Mayfair 70 74 69, Martin Kaymer (Ger) 71 73 69, Jim Furyk 68 74 71, Justin Rose (Eng) 70 71 72, Tim Petrovic 68 70 75, Boo Weekley 73 67 73

214Jason Dufner 67 70 77, David Toms 67 70 77, Angel Cabrera (Arg) 72 65 77, Bubba Watson 67 75 72, Tommy Armour III 74 70 70, Jeff Klauk 71 72 71, John Rollins 68 76 70, Justin Leonard 70 69 75, Robert Allenby (Aus) 73 66 75, Camilo Villegas (Col) 67 72 75, Johnson Wagner 69 73 72, Scott Verplank 67 74 73, Ryan Moore 71 68 75

215Charley Hoffman 70 69 76, Geoff Ogilvy (Aus) 70 72 73, Heath Slocum 75 69 71, Paul Casey (Eng) 70 69 76, Phil Mickelson 73 71 71, Michael Allen 71 70 74, Fredrik Jacobson (Swe) 70 73 72, Ernie Els (Rsa) 73 69 73, Luke Donald (Eng) 74 70 71, Tim Clark (Rsa) 72 69 74

216John Merrick 70 72 74, Nick O'Hern (Aus) 68 73 75, Mark Wilson 69 72 75, Stephen Ames (Can) 70 71 75

217Brad Adamonis 67 76 74, Sergio Garcia (Spa) 71 73 73, Scott Piercy 71 72 74, Matt Kuchar 72 72 73, Chez Reavie 70 72 75, Vijay Singh (Fij) 71 72 74, Mike Weir (Can) 72 72 73, Cameron Beckman 72 72 73, Ryuji Imada (Jpn) 72 70 75, Jason Bohn 72 71 74

218Aaron Baddeley (Aus) 71 71 76, Jeev Milkha Singh (Ind) 68 74 76, Pat Perez 72 72 74, Jeff Quinney 73 70 75, Steve Flesch 75 69 74, Rocco Mediate 73 71 74, Padraig Harrington (Irl) 72 72 74

219Hunter Mahan 73 71 75, Robert Karlsson (Swe) 74 70 75, Nathan Green (Aus) 74 69 76, K J Choi (Kor) 73 69 77, Martin Laird (Sco) 71 72 76

220Bob Estes 75 68 77, Stewart Cink 70 73 77

221 Graeme McDowell 71 73 77

222Dustin Johnson 72 72 78, Rodney Pampling (Aus) 70 73 79, Steve Marino 72 72 78, Fred Funk 73 71 78