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Last Updated: Saturday, 16 June 2007, 23:46 GMT 00:46 UK
Baddeley in front but Tiger looms
Aaron Baddeley
Baddeley mixed five birdies with five bogeys on Saturday
R3 LEADERBOARD:
(US unless stated)
+2 Aaron Baddeley (Aus)
+4 Tiger Woods
+5 Paul Casey (Eng), Stephen Ames (Can), Justin Rose (Eng), Bubba Watson
+6 Steve Stricker, Jim Furyk, Angel Cabrera (Arg)
+7 Stuart Appleby (Aus), David Toms, Niclas Fasth (Swe)

By Matt Slater

Aaron Baddeley will take a two-shot lead into the final round of the US Open at Oakmont but the chasing pack is led by world number one Tiger Woods.

The 26-year-old Australian, who had seen a three-shot lead trimmed to one going up the last, holed a fine birdie putt at 18 to get back to two over par.

Woods, who is chasing a 13th major title, is on his own at four over.

While English pair Paul Casey and Justin Rose are in a four-way tie for third on five over, just three back.

Casey looked in great shape early on, picking up where he left off on Friday with two birdies in his four holes. He found the going a little harder after that but battled hard to get home in 72.

Rose, playing alongside his friend Baddeley, struggled to start with, bogeying two of his first three holes, but birdies at 13 and 14 revived his hopes. A bad drive led to a bogey at the last but the 26-year-old Englishman is right in the mix.

You always dream of playing in majors and having a chance to win going into Sunday

Aaron Baddeley
Alongside them are Canadian Stephen Ames (73) and hard-hitting American Bubba Watson (74), who will be tempted to hit himself this evening after a horrible triple-bogey at the 9th. He did well to recover from that self-inflicted debacle.

His playing partner, and overnight leader, Angel Cabrera also experienced a few highs and lows on his way to an eventful 76. But at six over the Argentine is by no means out of this just yet.

But, inevitably at a major, the main focus will be on the final pairing. And while Woods has famously never won a major he has not been leading after 54 holes, he will stilll be the hot favourite on Sunday.

The 31-year-old American shot a superb one-under 69 in a third round that saw him hit 17 of 18 greens in regulation - his only miss resulting in a bogey at the last.

606: DEBATE
Sam

But that was the only blemish on a day when only a disobedient putter stopped him from carding something truly spectacular.

"I hit a lot of good putts that just grazed the edge," Woods said. "This round put me right in the tournament.

"I'd be miffed if I didn't hit good putts but I did. I had putts that were downhill and broke two to three feet - you can't really take a run at those. I probably had two or three putts that I could have made."

It helps to have experience - I've been there and I know what it takes

Tiger Woods
That said, the 12-time major winner took 35 putts and perhaps 10 of those were birdie chances, albeit on frighteningly difficult greens.

But on courses this tough pars are often good enough to see a player vault up the leaderboard, and by the time Woods tapped in for his 11th straight par at the 15th he found himself in a share of the lead for the first time.

Three birdies in four holes saw Baddeley burst out of a four-way tie at the top but it is difficult to see the US-born Aussie being able to cope with the pressures of playing against Woods and this punishing Oakmont lay-out.

Baddeley, however, showed courage over the closing holes of his third round. A poor drive at the 17th looked as if it might cause a third straight bogey but he saved par wonderfully and then recovered a shot at the testing 18th.

"You always dream of playing in majors and having a chance to win going into Sunday," said Baddeley, who will be trying to emulate compatriot Geoff Ogilvy's US Open heroics last year.

"I can only focus on what I'm doing. Today I felt really calm out there. My game felt nice. I wasn't trying to press or do anything special."

But a very different test awaits him - and Casey and Rose - on Sunday.

Tiger Woods
Woods was simply magnificent from tee to green on Saturday
"They're going to be dealing with emotions that they've probably never dealt with before," Woods said of his young rivals at the Pittsburgh course.

"It helps to have experience. I've been there and I know what it takes."

Not that Woods is the only "old head" looking forward to the final day. World number three Jim Furyk and world number seven Vijay Singh shot 70s to leave themselves on six and eight over respectively.

Furyk, the 2003 champion and a local man, finished birdie-birdie and will fancy his chances, whilst Singh, a three-time major winner, cannot be discounted despite bogeying the last to fall six off the lead.

Another to finish strongly was Stuart Appleby - the Australian will start his fourth round on seven over. Also on that mark is Sweden's Niclas Fasth and David Toms, who added a steady 73 to his two 72s.

One shot better off is Steve Stricker. The unheralded 40-year-old holed a wedge from 78 yards to birdie the last and card the best round of the day, a two-under 68.

In fact, his round and Tiger's were the only rounds under par on Saturday, the third straight day at Oakmont that saw just two players in red numbers.

And it is the sheer relentlessness of Oakmont, coupled with the enormity of the occasion, that makes the likely winner here the player with the strongest will and steadiest nerve. That player remains Tiger Woods.



SEE ALSO
US Open third round photos
17 Jun 07 |  Golf
US Open third round quotes
16 Jun 07 |  Golf


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