Baddeley ties Furyk

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HILTON HEAD ISLAND, S.C. (AP) – Aaron Baddeley hopes to cap a big weekend with his first PGA Tour victory.

Baddeley shot a 66 on Saturday and was tied for the lead with Jim Furyk (68) at 14-under entering the final round of the Heritage Verizon.

First, the 25-year-old Australian and wife Richelle will celebrate their first wedding anniversary, and he will be the featured speaker at an Easter Sunrise Service at Harbour Town Golf Links.

“It’s something I definitely cherish,” Baddeley said. “I think it’s a perfect way to set the day.”

And Baddeley knows how he wants to close it.

“I’m very confident. I’m hitting the ball very nicely. I’m putting very well,” he said. “I’m looking forward to it. It’s going to be a fun day.”

The final round could be one to remember at Harbour Town. Billy Mayfair (68) was three shots behind at 11 under. Then at 10 under came Jerry Kelly (66) and Ernie Els, the only one of golf’s “Big Five” to play the week after the Masters.

Lucas Glover (66), Chris Riley (68) and former champion Jose Coceres (68) were another shot back.

Els shot a 65, tying for the lowest score of the round, to get back in contention.

While Furyk saw that he and Baddeley had separated themselves a bit from the pack, he won’t sleep easy. “There’s quite a few guys not that far back, some good players,” Furyk said.

Furyk started the round ahead by two over Baddeley, lost that lead on the front nine yet rallied to move a stroke in front with three straight birdies on Nos. 15-17.

But Furyk was long with his 8-iron from the 18th fairway, his ball rolling in a bunker behind the lighthouse hole’s green. Furyk had an awkward stance and said he tried to guide the ball onto the green. As most duffers can tell you, that rarely works. Furyk’s shot came up short of the putting surface and he settled for bogey and the tie.

Furyk said he played the approach the way he wanted, so, “It’s pretty easy just to say, Oh well,” and forget it.

Furyk is trying for his first victory since last year’s Western Open. Baddeley has not won a tour event.

Mayfair, who lost to Jose Coceres in a playoff in the 2001 tournament, had birdies on two of his final four holes.

Furyk’s largely solid play disappeared on the front nine, missing par saves of less than 10 feet on the seventh and eight holes. His rally started with a a birdie on the 12th hole and kept going down the stretch with birdie putts of 6, 2 and 11 feet.

Baddeley will have a very long day today. He’s scheduled to speak at the tournament’s Easter Sunrise Service at 7:30 a.m. before his final-round pairing with Furyk.

After the first two rounds, it seemed like the most memorable part of Els’ visit to the island resort would be the morning bike rides with his family.

He was eight shots behind after the first round and seven strokes down when he teed off for the third round. Els quickly showed the form that’s made him No. 5 in the world with birdies on four of his first five holes.

But Els stumbled badly with a bogey on the par-3 seventh and a double-bogey on the eighth. Els’ first try at blasting out of a greenside bunker on No. 8 ended with his club nipping the wood tie framing the trap and missing the ball.

“So I had fresh air there, as they say,” said Els, smiling.

Els used that easygoing demeanor to regroup and play his best golf of the week. He had birdies on five of his final 10 holes, including three straight on Nos. 15-17, to move into contention.

Els says mistakes like he made in the third round have typically cost him.

“But today I was a bit more determined not to let it get to me too much, and I played a good back nine,” he said.

Els is also determined not to repeat his final-round folds of the past at Harbour Town.

In 2000, he was out front and four strokes ahead of eventual winner Stewart Cink before a stretch of three bogeys in five holes took him out of it. Three years ago, Els held a two-shot lead with three holes to go. But he drove it out of bounds on the 16th hole, then made two more bogeys coming in to finish in a tie for 10th.

Els, who has five top 10 finishes in seven previous Harbour Town tournaments, has learned plenty from his near-misses.

“I don’t think I’ll hit driver on 16,” he said.

Divots: Bob Estes, the first one off and playing alone, finished his third round in 2:37. Estes shot an even-par 71.

… Heath Slocum tied Els for the round’s best score at 65. Slocum shot a 30 on the front nine, two off Craig Barlow’s record set in 2003.

AP-ES-04-15-06 1928EDT

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