Another mad scramble in the PGA playoffs

Brett Wetterich emerged from the pack with a 15-foot eagle and held on for a 6-under 66, giving him a 1-shot lead in the Deutsche Bank Championship.

updated: September 05, 2007 10:16 IST
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Norton, Massachusetts:

Brett Wetterich emerged from the pack with a 15-foot eagle on Sunday and held on for a 6-under 66, giving him a one-shot lead in the Deutsche Bank Championship but no room for error.

The second straight week of these PGA Tour Playoffs delivered a surprising leader in Wetterich, who has not been in serious contention since March. And it looks as if it will be the second straight week of a final round up for grabs among an All-Star cast of contenders.

Wetterich was at 13-under 200 and will play in the final pairing on Labor Day with Arron Oberholser, who had to scramble for par after hitting into the hazard on the 18th to shoot 66.

But of all the errors on the closing holes, perhaps the most significant belonged to Aaron Baddeley. He went for the green out of the bunker and wound up with a bogey, a shot that enabled Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson to be paired in the second-to-last group.

Woods and Mickelson played together the first two days, and Lefty needled him again by noting that Butch Harmon pointed out a few habits by the world's No 1 player that made Mickelson chuckle.

Mickelson scrambled brilliantly throughout the sunny day, six times saving par with putts in the 6-foot range that kept his round together. He finished with a birdie on the 18th for a 68, putting him two shots behind at 202.

Another shot behind was Woods, the defending champion at Deutsche Bank who is making his first start in these playoffs. Woods was fuming as he left the 18th green with a 67, after three-putting the last two holes to spoil an otherwise solid day.

But with mistakes by Wetterich, Baddeley and Oberholser down the stretch, he wasn't as bad off as he thought. A year ago, Woods turned a three-shot deficit into a two-shot victory over Vijay Singh.

This one doesn't figure to be a duel, not with a dozen players within five shots of Wetterich's lead.

Rousing start

The playoffs got off to a rousing start last week at The Barclays, which featured 10 players within three shots of the lead along the back nine of Westchester until Steve Stricker birdied the last three holes for the victory.

This could be more of the same.

US Open champion Angel Cabrera eagled the last hole for a 65 to reach 9-under 204, while Stricker made a 60-foot eagle on the 18th hole that swirled all the way around the cup and gave him a 69, putting him in the group at 205.

Wetterich, one of the most powerful players in golf, made the Ryder Cup last year as a rookie and turned heads recently when he earned a spot in the Skins Game. But he is capable of explosive stretches, and he showed that Sunday by twice giving himself eagle putts, one on the 298-yard fourth hole. He only made one, at the par-5 seventh, but it propelled him into the lead and he never gave it back.

"If I go out and shoot 5 under like I did today, it's going to be hard to beat me, unless someone really plays a good round of golf," Wetterich said. "I'm going to go out and try to make the best score that I can. And if someone catches me and beats me, then they did."

His biggest shot might have been for a par.

Wetterich drove into the trees right of the fairway on No. 5 and had to drop a half-dozen times, from the hazard line, then the cart path, then a rubber mat covering some television cables. The ball finally back in play, he hit 5-iron from 220 yards to 5 feet and made the putt.

"I got myself out of a pretty big jam there," he said. "From there on, I got myself out of trouble and didn't get in any more trouble, and made a few birdie putts. And it resulted in a good score."

Crowded below

There's a big jam behind him, however, and there's probably where the largest crowds will be.

Mickelson finished two shots better than Woods over the first two rounds, when Vijay Singh joined them based on playoff rankings. He later revealed that he found the secret to playing better against his longtime nemesis.

Woods was tied for the lead for about two minutes after jump-starting his round with a 30-foot birdie putt on No. 8, followed by two straight birdies from about 20 feet to reach 10 under. About that time, Wetterich reached the 600-yard seventh hole in two shots and made the 15-foot eagle to take command.

Woods added another birdie on the 12th, but his work was undone with a three-putt bogey from about 50 feet on the 17th, and having to settle for par after three-putting the 18th from the other side of the green.

"Instead of being two or three back, I'll be five or six back," Woods said. "I'm going to have to actually shoot a really low round tomorrow, and hopefully, it will be enough."

A few mistakes by the guys behind him might have helped him out. But like everyone else, it figures to be a mad scramble on Monday.