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Westwood protects TPC lead

Mickelson makes big move with 66

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – One round away from one of the biggest wins of his career, Lee Westwood of England knows what to expect on the final day of The Players Championship.

Not only because of his 16 years and his 30 victories worldwide, or his 54-hole lead last month at the Masters.

Saturday on the TPC Sawgrass was enough of a reminder.

Westwood watched a two-shot lead turn into a two-shot deficit. Over the final hour, Robert Allenby picked up three shots on the last three holes, while Heath Slocum dropped four shots on the last six holes.

The day ended with Westwood hitting a daring shot with a 6-iron through a gap in the trees for a par on the 18th hole for a 2-under-par 70 to finish the third round with a one-shot lead, same as he started. He has more company now – Masters champion Phil Mickelson included – but the course is as significant as the names behind him on the leaderboard.

“There was no real scope for thinking about anything else other than what I was doing,” Westwood said. “It’s that kind of golf course. If you play well, birdies are available. If you don’t hit good shots, they penalize you. That’s what good golf courses do to you.”

Mickelson suddenly was back in the picture, along with that No. 1 ranking, because of his 66 that put him five shots behind.

Tiger Woods was not, courtesy of a bogey-bogey finish for a 71 that put him 10 shots behind, tied with Alex Prugh (Ferris High). Prugh shot a third-round 70.

Allenby was five shots behind when he walked off the 13th tee. He made up ground quickly with a 6-iron to about 12 feet on the par-5 16th for eagle, then a 12-foot birdie on the island-green 17th that curled into the side of the cup. He shot a 67 to get in the final group.