ATLANTA — The cheers weren't as loud, but Sergio Garcia had heard them before.
Six days ago at the Ryder Cup, he was helpless as Anthony Kim fired at flags and birdied nearly half his holes in a 5-and-4 romp that revved up the gallery during an American victory.
It looked like more of the same early Saturday at the Tour Championship, especially when Kim made everything in sight to build a three-shot lead on the front nine at East Lake. This time, fortunes turned in the Spaniard's favor.
Garcia kept hitting good putts until enough of them went in that he turned a three-shot deficit into a three-shot lead with 3-under 67, leaving him poised to become only the third player to capture the Players Championship and the Tour Championship in the same year.
"We're moving in the right direction," Garcia said, referring as much to his game as a third round that put him at 8-under 202, giving him a three-shot cushion over Phil Mickelson (69) and Kim (72).
Kim couldn't go at too many flags because he was busy escaping from the rough.
The American hit only four fairways, and his wildness caught up with him.
One tee shot hit a fan in the forehead, sending him to the hospital with a 2-inch gash that left blood on the grass. Another shot found the water. Yet another bounced off corporate tents lining the 16th fairway.
"I'm speechless how bad I hit the driver," Kim said.
He was at a loss for words when he saw the damage he inflicted on the ninth hole. His wayward shot hit David Whitfield, 48, on the fly, splitting open his forehead. Whitfield was taken to a hospital, but he never lost consciousness, and tests were negative. "I thought I killed him," Kim said.
Garcia got up and down from the bunker for birdie to catch Kim at the turn then took the lead for good with birdie on the par-5 15th.
"Obviously, AK wasn't on his A-game," Garcia said. "I still feel like he scrambled nicely. He got some putts going in the beginning. I managed to make some birdies and played solidly."
Mickelson, who saved par from 35 feet on 11, joined them in the lead with birdie at 15, only to miss the fairway into thick rough on the next hole and drop a shot. Even so, he has been lurking around the leaders all week and worked his way into the final pairing.
"It's fun to be in the last group," Mickelson said. "I know it's going to be difficult. I'm spotting Sergio three shots. I know how well he's been playing, so it'll be a difficult round for me to get it done."
LPGA: Top-ranked Lorena Ochoa shot 3-under 69 for a share of the lead in the Navistar LPGA Classic in Prattville, Ala. The Mexican star matched Louise Friberg (65) at 13-under 203.
Champions: Bruce Fleisher moved into position for his first tour win in four years, shooting 6-under 66 to close at 10-under 134 for a one-stroke lead over Tom Kite (66) and Eduardo Romero (67) at the SAS Championship in Cary, N.C.
European: Charl Schwartzel held the clubhouse lead when darkness stopped play at the British Masters in Sutton Coldfield, England. Schwartzel, who shot 6-under 66 to finish at 6-under 210, was among 24 players who completed the round. Mikael Lundberg, Michael Campbell and Alexandra Canisters were at 7 under but hadn't finished.