PALM HARBOR — PGA Tour veterans Retief Goosen and Jim Furyk have not gotten off to the best of starts this season.
But when the Transitions Championship rolls around, the duo seem to get their games in shape.
Goosen, the 2003 and 2009 tournament champion, and Furyk, the 2010 winner, found themselves tied for the lead at 11-under 202 after Saturday's third round on the par-71 Copperhead course at Innisbrook. They were being chased by a pair of players looking for their first tour win, Sang-Moon Bae and second-round leader Jason Dufner. Both were one back.
Two shots back were John Mallinger and Ken Duke. There were 18 players within four shots of the lead, including Luke Donald, the No. 2-ranked player in the world (8 under), and Padraig Harrington, the first-round leader (7 under).
"I always look forward to this tournament," Furyk said.
Furyk, 41, who has finished among the top 25 only once in four events this year, made his move by shooting 5-under 66 with four birdies on the front nine. His only stumble was bogey on the par-4 18th hole. It was his second 66 of the tournament and third consecutive round under par.
"I felt good about what I was doing and hit some good putts," said Furyk, who birdied the first, fourth and fifth holes. "And I just really played solid on the back nine."
Goosen, 43, who has no top-25 finishes among three tournaments this year, shot the low round of the day, 6-under 65. It was his lowest round on the course despite a bogey on the third hole. It also was his third consecutive round in the 60s.
And Goosen did it with an ailing back.
"My back has been my main issue this year," said Goosen, whose best finish is a tie for 35th at last month's Northern Trust Open. "The last three weeks, it's started getting bad again."
Goosen, bad back and all, will try to become the first three-time winner of the tournament since it started in 2000. He hasn't won a tournament since the 2009 Transitions.
"It would be nice to be the first person to win it three times," Goosen said.
He'll have to hold off playing-partner Furyk as well as a slew of others. Furyk was winless on tour last year and struggled with his putting and driving. He did have four top-10 finishes but fell out of the top 50 in the world (61st).
He said he needed to refocus for the 2012 season.
"I needed last year to end," Furyk said.
"I needed to take time off, take a deep breath and refocus my goals. I'm playing much better golf this year than I was last year."
Goosen and Furyk have Bae to thank for sharing the lead. Bae was up by two when he reached the par-4 16th hole. His drive went long and into the woods. By the time he hacked out and putted in, Bae made triple bogey and fell to 9 under.
He salvaged his round with birdie on the 17th hole to finish at 3-under 68.
"I hit my second shot a little far," said Bae, a 25-year-old rookie from South Korea. "The lie was very tough in the rough. My chipping and putting wasn't too bad."
If there is a good sign for Furyk, it's that he didn't hit the ball straight Saturday but still managed a good score. If he does that today, he could be holding his second Transitions Championship trophy.
"I made some birdies out of the rough," Furyk said. "I hit less than 50 percent of the fairways (in regulation). So obviously, I was playing well. I was able to knock some putts in and keep the round going."
Rodney Page can be reached at email@example.com.