Scott leaves Europeans in the shade

Young Australian two shots ahead of the world's best, but the overseas challenge flounders
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The Independent Online

Adam Scott, widely tipped as a future Major winner, put himself in position to claim the most significant victory of his career when he shot 69 to go into today's final round of The Players' Championship as leader.

Adam Scott, widely tipped as a future Major winner, put himself in position to claim the most significant victory of his career when he shot 69 to go into today's final round of The Players' Championship as leader.

The 23-year-old Australian leads by two from the joint second-round leader Kevin Sutherland, who dropped a shot at the last for a one-over-par 73, and Frank Lickliter, who moved into contention with a four-under-par 68. Scott, who also led after an opening 65 on Thursday, likes his position, but said: "I am far from winning this event. I have a leaderboard full of the best players in the world."

Paul Stankowski put himself in amongst them in a tie for fourth place by shooting a six-under-par 66 to jump 19 places at seven-under-par where he was joined by Kenny Perry, Phil Mickelson, the South African Ernie Els and the other second round co-leader Jerry Kelly, who fired a two-over-par 74.

The best round of the day belonged to Australian Craig Parry, who had two eagles on the back nine and shot an eight-under-par 64 to move to six-under for the championship and into a tie for ninth with Duffy Waldorf and Fiji's Vijay Singh.

But it was a poor day for European players, with none in the top 10. The exception was Paul Casey, who bucked the trend with a 69 to move level with Padraig Harrington in joint 12th. Casey had a hat-trick of birdies from the 11th, but he drove into the lake on the last and bogeyed for an aggregate five-under-par. "I pulled it a fraction, but still thought it might have found a piece of land," he said. "But I played nicely and I've no reason to change anything tomorrow. "

Harrington birdied the par-five second to maintain his hopes of improving on his second place last year but he then bogeyed the fifth and eighth and, after another birdie at the 11th, slipped up again at the short 13th. He also had a birdie at the 16th but it was a disappointing day overall. "I didn't play well and putted poorly," he admitted. "I was trying to limit the damage to give myself some chance. Five under was as good as I could do."

There was consolation of sorts for the Irishman, because he will play the final round today with Tiger Woods. Many expected Woods, the man who leads the world rankings, to be back home by now after his spectacular waywardness off the tee during his opening round of 75, three over par. But he eased through to the weekend with two shots to spare to make it 120 tournaments since he last missed a cut, though at level par he was left with nine shots to make up and needed to go up a further gear or two.

True to form, he tried to do just that in yesterday's third round. Down in 108th place after the first round, a blistering front nine of 32, followed by birdies at the 12th and 13th had him in an amazing fifth place at one point yesterday. But although he got another birdie at the long 16th, he also had bogeys at the 14th, the infamous 17th island hole and the 18th to give him a 68 and a four-under aggregate of 212. "Not such a good finish, but overall I played well," Woods said. "I hit so many good shots and man, all the hard work is starting to pay off. Each and every day I'm getting better." Good news for his attempt to win a fourth Masters in a fortnight.

But the omens were less happy on the British front yesterday. For the second time in three days Colin Montgomerie drove into the lake on the last and had to play his next shot from the ladies' tee. It cost him a double-bogey six and, having also doubled the sixth, a third successive 73 was the best the Scot, who won his first tournament for 16 months in Singapore last Sunday, could do.

Darren Clarke was only one better at two over and that represented real disappointment for the Ulsterman, who was sixth in last week's Bay Hill Invitational. He turned in 33, but an eagle on the 11th came in a back nine of 40 which also included four bogeys and a double on the 449-yard 15th.

One ahead of him and in a similar frame of mind was Nick Faldo, who almost made an albatross on the second, but then ran up a seven at the ninth and had to settle for a 71. Justin Rose, meanwhile, shot 70 to improve to level par.

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