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Bubba Watson is a big hit at Doral

Left-hander leads by three despite some wayward shots on a day the course is there for the taking. Rory McIlroy flirts with 59 before falling back.

March 10, 2012|By Jeff Shain
  • Bubba Watson retrieves his ball from under a tower on the 16th hole during the third round of the Cadillac Championship at Doral on Saturday.
Bubba Watson retrieves his ball from under a tower on the 16th hole during… (Mike Ehrmann / Getty Images )

Reporting from Doral, Fla. -- There has been a definitive wow factor in watching Bubba Watson carve his way around the TPC Blue Monster this week. Saturday, though, also brought an extra element of hazardous duty.

Watson's drive at No. 12 thumped a man in the chest. Four holes later, a rocket from a fairway bunker might have come down on Doral's Red Course had not a tower for a laser measuring device been in the way.

"I just knew it was going a long way," Watson said.

Yet for all his wildness, the left-hander never fully let go of the Cadillac Championship lead. Now if he can get around the Monster one more time without too much trouble, he'll have his first World Golf Championships crown.

"All in all, it was a great day," said Watson, whose five-under-par 67 and 17-under total left him three shots in front of Justin Rose and Keegan Bradley. "I knew anything under par would be a good score, so somehow I'm here with a lead."

With only the gentlest of breezes blowing, the Blue Monster was easy prey for a second straight day. At one point, Rory McIlroy had 59 in his sights before cooling off down the stretch.

McIlroy's front-nine 30 was just one off the Doral record, even without a birdie on either of the front's two par-five holes. He eagled the par-five 10th, though, and birdied No. 12 to reach nine under for the day.

He didn't make another birdie, finding a bogey at No. 14 to halt his momentum and plod home with a 65.

"It's just a shame I couldn't back it up," said McIlroy, winner of last week's Honda Classic. "I couldn't get the ball in the hole. I mean, 65's a good number, but it could have been a lot more."

Tiger Woods opened with three birdies and was four under through six. But he bogeyed No. 8, parred No. 9 with a chip-in after finding water and couldn't get going again on the back nine.

"I hit a couple of bad shots in the middle of the round, and it cost me," he said.

Watson's three-day total of 199 was the lowest at Doral since Woods won the final edition of the old Ford Championship in 2006.

Bradley went bogey-free for the second straight day to post a 66. Rose carded a 69, falling into a tie for second with a bogey at No. 18. Sweden's Peter Hanson (69) was alone in fourth, four shots off the pace.

Saturday's scoring average of 70.11 was only slightly higher than Friday's.

"If you hit it in the fairway," Bradley said, "the pins were where you could fire at them."

Winds are forecast to pick up again Sunday, though not as much as when it was creating havoc in the opening round.

"I guess it's up a little bit to [Watson], see what he does," Hanson said. "And for the rest of us a little bit further behind, it is going to be about going out and trying to shoot a low score."

Watson owns three PGA Tour victories and will tell anyone who asks that he's still not comfortable — neither around the Blue Monster, nor taking a lead into the final round.

"If anybody says they aren't nervous going into Sunday that's around the lead or has a chance to win, they are just lying to you," Watson said. "I'm nervous. I'm going out there and I'm trying to beat this golf course. I'm trying to beat the Blue Monster."

jshain@orlandosentinel.com

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