PALM HARBOR, Fla. — Justin Leonard walked toward the 12th green Saturday at Innisbrook and saw a scoreboard that showed he was tied for the lead in the Tampa Bay Championship. He knocked in his 8-foot birdie putt, assumed he was ahead, and then never looked at another board the rest of the day.
He might do the same today.
There’s no point in staring at scores, not with so many names separated by so few shots. Besides, the Copperhead course at Innisbrook is playing so difficult even in pleasant weather that it’s best not to think about anything except the next shot.
“It is hard,” Leonard said after his 4-under 67 put him in a three-way tie for the lead with Kevin Streelman and George Coetzee of South Africa. “There’s not a whole lot of birdie holes on those last six holes. With the greens getting firmer and faster as they did today — which I’m sure they will again tomorrow. You have to be pretty patient out there and really pick your spots pretty carefully.”
Adam Scott and K.J. Choi set the tone early for this wild day by going into full retreat.
That allowed for a game of musical chairs at the top of the leaderboard, with nothing remotely close to being settled going into the final day. Sixteen players were separated by only three shots at a tournament where the winner has come from behind to win in four of the last five years.
Streelman finished his 6-under 65 nearly three hours before the last group walked off the 18th green.
“I wanted to get to 6 under today,” Streelman said. “I had that number in my mind to at least have a chance going into tomorrow, so I was happy to get there.”
He had no idea at the time he would all the way to the top of the leaderboard.
Leonard ran off four birdies in a five-hole stretch around the turn and had the lead to himself before a bogey from the bunker on the 15th. Coetzee bounced back from his lone bogey with a birdie on the rowdy 17th hole, where Hooters waitresses serve wings in the grandstands. That gave him a 68.
They were tied at 6-under 207, more evidence that the Copperhead course is perhaps the most complete test in Florida. Even on a warm, breezy afternoon, it was easier to go backward that to move away from the field.
LPGA FOUNDERS CUP: Ai Miyazato pulled back in front in Phoenix, making three birdies in a four-hole stretch on the back nine and saving par with a long putt on the par-4 finishing hole.
The diminutive Japanese star shot her second straight 5-under 67 after opening with a tournament-record 64. At 19-under 197, she had a four-stroke lead over Stacy Lewis and Jee Young Lee.
Lewis was penalized two strokes after the round when it was determined that caddie Travis Wilson tested the sand before Lewis played out of a bunker on the par-4 16th. That turned a 66 into a 68, making the third-ranked Texan’s bid to take over the top spot in the world from Yani Tseng more difficult Sunday.
Lewis would jump to No. 1 with a victory today, as long as Tseng — tied for 63rd at 2 under after a 72 — finishes third or worse.
TOSHIBA CLASSIC: David Frost maintained a one-stroke lead over Fred Couples in the Champions Tour event, eagling the final hole for a 5-under 66 in Newport Beach, Calif. After opening with a 63, Frost had a 13-under 129 total. The South African made an 18-foot putt for the eagle on the par-5 18th.