Date: March 22, 2009
Author: PA Sport and Sportal

Appleby within three shots

Stuart Appleby is just three shots off the lead heading into the final round of the Transitions Championship in Florida. The Australian added a level-par round of 71 to finish the penultimate day at five-under the card, some three shots behind American Tom Lehman. Trying to become the seventh oldest winner in PGA Tour history, Lehman fired a third-round 68 and will go into the final round on eight-under-par, one in front of South African Retief Goosen. Lehman, world number one for one week only back in 1997, is currently ranked 254th and his last victory was nine years ago. His recent form was nothing to write home about either as he came to the demanding Innisbrook Resort&aposs Copperhead course. Prior to finishing 49th in Mexico at the start of the month he had missed five halfway cuts in a row and his last top-10 finish was in May last year at the Players Championship. Opening rounds of 68 and 69, however, had left him in joint third place only one behind and as pacesetters Nick Watney and Steve Stricker hit trouble Lehman came storming back from a double bogey at the short fourth. The ex-Open champion, who took five months off at the end of last season because of elbow tendinitis, birdied the next and after bogeying the eighth had four more birdies in a row from the 12th to come home in 31. He was only a foot away from an ace on the 13th. Masters champion Trevor Immelman, who defends his only major title in just three weeks&apos time, had his second successive 70 to be five-under and joint third with Jonathan Byrd, Charles Howell and Appleby. Lehman, America&aposs captain in the crushing defeat at The K Club in Ireland three years ago, is the first player of 50 or older to lead a PGA Tour event with a round to go since Greg Norman at last July&aposs Open. “I really enjoyed myself today,” he said. “The front nine was a comedy of errors and on the back nine things got going.” “I didn&apost touch a club at the end of last year because of my injury and started the year poorly, but quite frankly I saw good golf coming.” Stricker had a 73 containing four birdies and six bogeys to fall back to seventh and Watney, winner of the Buick Invitational last month and runner-up to Phil Mickelson in last week&aposs WGC-CA Championship, a 74 that put him only three-under and joint 15th. Of the other Australians to make the halfway cut, Mathew Goggin is in a tie for 19th place at two-under, Nick O&aposHern is at even-par, while Aron Price and Steve Elkington share 47th place at two-over.