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Woods trails Wi by four at Pebble Beach

February 12, 2012

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— Charlie Wi played bogey-free at Spyglass Hill for a 3-under 69 to build a three-shot lead Saturday in the Pebble Beach National Pro-Am. Now it’s time for him to face his demons of self-doubt — along with a familiar force in golf.

Tiger Woods took another step toward showing his game is nearly back. He ran off five birdies in a six-hole stretch early in his round at Pebble Beach and had a 5-under 67 that put him four shots behind going into the final round, the closest he has been to the 54-hole lead in a regular PGA Tour event since the 2010 Masters.

With a new swing, it’s starting to look like the old Tiger.

“But the scenario doesn’t change,” Woods said. “The ultimate goal is to win a golf tournament.”

That’s something Wi has never done in 162 previous PGA Tour events. Wi, who was at 15-under 199, has a 54-hole lead for only the second time on tour. He had a one-shot lead at Colonial last year and was runner-up to David Toms.

This time, Wi will be in the last group with someone in a familiar spot. Ken Duke, who is winless in 142 starts on the PGA Tour, shot a 65 at Monterey Peninsula.

The last two weeks haven’t been too kind to 54-hole leaders. Kyle Stanley lost a five-shot lead at Torrey Pines, and Spencer Levin blew a six-shot lead the following week in the Phoenix Open. Both were going for their first PGA Tour win.

“I haven’t really thought about that,” Wi said, when asked if it were a blessing or a burden to be in front. “But I enjoy being in the lead. It’s a lot more fun than trying to come from behind. I know that tonight is going to be very exciting, and I’m sure I won’t sleep as well as if I’m in 50th place. But that’s what we play for, and I’m really excited.”

Along with Woods in the hunt, Phil Mickelson managed to stay in contention despite playing the par 5s at Pebble Beach in 1-over par. He saved par on the 18th for a 70. That put him in a tie for fourth, six shots behind, and a possible date in the final round with Woods.

Padraig Harrington was chasing the lead until a sloppy finish at Spyglass Hill — a bogey on the par-5 seventh and a double bogey on the eighth. He had to settle for a 72 and dropped seven shots behind in a tie for ninth.

Wi is No. 175 in the world, while Duke is at No. 258. They have combined for 304 starts without a win. Right behind them are Woods and Mickelson, who have combined for 18 majors and 110 PGA Tour wins.

Also in the group at 9-under 205 are two-time Pebble Beach winner Dustin Johnson, who had a 70 at Monterey Peninsula, and Hunter Mahan, who had a 70 at Spyglass Hill.

“It’s really fun, especially when the big guys are up there,” Duke said. “That’s when everyone is out there watching. If you do perform well and play well, they will be watching you, as well. It’s going to be fun.”

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