The Barclays: Sergio Garcia builds 2-shot lead

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FARMINGDALE, N.Y. — Bethpage Black lived up its reputation because of the greens, which in some cases looked brown.

Sergio Garcia called them the fastest putting surfaces he could recall. Nick Watney referred to them as extreme. More than one player suggested the course was unplayable Saturday in The Barclays, certainly late in the afternoon as the sun baked out the public course on Long Island. And yes, there were references to Shinnecock Hills, the private club on Long Island where the greens were out of control on the final day of the 2004 U.S. Open.

Garcia managed them just fine.

With no bogeys over his final eight holes, he turned a three-shot deficit into a two-shot lead over Nick Watney with a 2-under 69. Such were the conditions that Garcia was the only player among the final 18 to finish who broke 70.

“The course is extremely firm,” he said. “The greens, just probably some of the fastest greens I’ve ever played. Just one of those days where you knew it was going to be tough and you have to hold on very tight, and just kind of hope for the best.”

Garcia went four years without winning on the PGA Tour and now has a chance to make it two in a row and return to the top 10 in the world. He was at 10-under 203, and only four players were within four shots of the lead.

Watney, who made five putts over 15 feet, went after another one on the 18th hole and this one cost him. The ball raced 10 feet by the hole, and he missed it coming back for his only official three-putt of the round. That gave him an even-par 71, though still in good shape to make a run at his first win of the year.

“The course just kind of beat you up,” Watney said.

He got one small measure of revenge by making a 35-foot putt on the par-3 17th for the only birdie of the round. By late afternoon, the green was so firm that shots landing near the front pin settled in the rough or fringe behind the green.

Tiger Woods, who started the third round three shots out of the lead, three-putted for bogey three times on the front nine alone. He had another three-putt on the 14th hole, this one from 15 feet, and had a 72 that put him six shots behind.

“I don’t remember blowing putts by 8 to 10 feet,” Woods said. “So that was a bit of a shocker.”

He knew what to expect on the first hole, when he watched Gary Christian lean on his putter and nearly fall over because the club had no traction on the slippery surface.

Kevin Stadler played early, when the greens still had some moisture, and had a remarkable round of 65 without any bogeys. He moved up from a tie for 42nd to alone in third place, three shots behind. Brandt Snedeker started strong and closed with nine pars, which was equally impressive, for a 68 that put him four back.

Phil Mickelson might still be in the game. Twice a runner-up at Bethpage Black — both times in the U.S. Open — Mickelson played early Saturday and had a 67. That eventually put him in the large group at 4-under 209 that included Woods, Louis Oosthuizen, Lee Westwood and Charl Schwartzel, an impressive collection of players who have either won a major or been No. 1 in the world.

“If you play well, you can shoot a decent score, but as the day goes on, the course just gets harder and harder,” Garcia said. “No doubt playing in the morning makes it a little bit easier. Even though the greens were still firm, they were probably not as firm and probably not quite as fast. It’s just we know what Bethpage Black is all about. We know it’s a tough golf course, and you’ve just got to realize that’s the way it’s going to be.”

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