- The Washington Times - Sunday, August 25, 2002

SAMMAMISH, Wash. (AP) Robert Allenby ticked off the names of players that he let back into the hunt yesterday in the NEC Invitational.
One of them stood out in particular.
"You've got a guy like Tiger Woods sitting right up behind you," Allenby said after an even-par 71 that left him in a share of the lead, which was about the best thing that came out of the third round at Sahalee Country Club.
"You've got the top three or four players in the world right on your heels. You know one of them is going to have a good day. And I can put a pretty good bet on one of them."
The NEC Invitational moved across the country this year, from Firestone Country Club in Ohio to tree-lined Sahalee west of Seattle.
No matter.
Woods is where he usually is at this tournament, right in the thick of it going into the final round of the $5 million World Golf Championship event.
"I got myself back in the tournament with a chance to win tomorrow," said Woods, who had a 4-under 67 despite bogeys on the last two holes that dropped him out of the lead.
He is in good position to become the first player in 75 years to win the same tournament four straight years, and he owes a small debt of gratitude to Allenby.
Allenby looked as though he might run away from the field after making birdies on the first two holes. Instead, he caught a bad break that led to double bogey and needed a birdie on the last hole to share the lead with fellow Aussie Craig Parry.
Allenby's round was not all that bad considering no one in the final two groups broke par on a course with increasingly firm fairways and bumpy greens.
Parry had a bogey-free 66 and joined him at 10-under 203.
Woods will play with Ernie Els, also at 8-under 205, with Phil Mickelson and Vijay Singh among those who were another stroke behind.
In all, a dozen players were separated by four strokes.
Most of the focus will be on Woods, who has dominated this tournament no matter where it's played. He trailed Jim Furyk by two strokes last year at Firestone before beating him in a seven-hole playoff.
"He's made so many great runs at the leaders," Els said. "Hopefully, I'll be sucked into his wake somehow."
Parry has never won on the PGA Tour in 235 starts, and hasn't been in this position since he had the 54-hole lead in the 1995 Colonial a year before Woods turned pro.
"I'm knocking on the door again," Parry said. "If the door opens this time, great. If it doesn't, I'll be back another time."
One stroke behind was golf's latest wild-and-crazy guy, Fred Funk, who found a new flock of fans in Seattle by holing a bunker shot on the 17th hole for a 68.
Funk only got into the $5 million bonanza with his tie for fourth in the PGA Championship last week, which put him at No.50 in the world by 0.02 points. Now, he's one stroke out of the lead with a chance for a $1 million payoff.
"To be where I am, I'm pretty surprised," he said.
The third round was filled with surprises, not all of them good.
Allenby birdied the first two holes to quickly build a two-stroke lead. All that was undone on No.4, when his 2-iron off the tee struck a tee in the fairway and ricocheted into rough so deep that he only advanced his second shot 10 yards.
He wound up with a double bogey that stopped his momentum.
Despite a 4-under 67 that left him in great shape for the final round, Woods was furious after finishing with two bogeys that dropped him out of a share of the lead.
He was at 10 under when he stood on the 17th tee, and he was about to pull the trigger until he backed off. Steve Williams, his caddie, brought the bag over and Woods switched from a 5-iron to a 6-iron for the 230-yard shot.
He proceeded to pull the shot into the bunker and missed an 8-foot par putt.
"It was just a nice, smooth 5, and Stevie talked me out of a 5 and into a 6," Woods said. "What ticks me off is I had the final say-so, and I didn't trust my gut instincts. It's just a stupid play, and it cost me a shot."
The final hole didn't exactly improve his mood.
He hooked his driver into the rough, had to lay up and then pulled a wedge into the deep rough. As soon as Woods made contact, a lone voice in the grandstand screamed, "Get in the hole!" What the man should have said was, "Get on the green!"
The ball traveled about six feet, and Woods missed his 20-foot par putt to fall two strokes behind the leaders.
"You just blast it and hope you get it right," Woods said of the chip. "And I didn't."
Not everything went wrong.
He's a lot closer to the lead than he was last week at Hazeltine, where he started the final round five strokes behind and finished one back of Rich Beem.
Walter Hagen (PGA Championship from 1924-27) was the last player to win the same event four years in a row, and Woods is primed to join him.
Els hit a few bumps along the way to his 67. The Big Easy started the day hopeful of getting to 10 under and giving himself a chance, not knowing that no one in the final group would break par.
Steve Lowery, the co-leader after 36 holes, had a 73 and Retief Goosen needed a birdie on the final hole for a 74.

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