Imada struggles less than rest, takes lead

SAN DIEGO — Phil Mickelson hit a drive into a eucalyptus tree that never came down. D.A. Points had a chip from 30 yards short of the flag that tumbled 20 yards over the green and into a hazard.

Tampa's Ryuji Imada didn't feel as though he played that much better Saturday in the Farmers Insurance Open. The difference was he turned trouble into pars, then finished with a bonus birdie that gave him a two-shot lead at Torrey Pines.

"The score looks pretty solid," Imada said after his 2-under 70. "But it was a struggle out there."

Imada avoided the problems that stalled several players on the South Course and wound up at 13-under 203. When his 35-foot birdie putt dropped on the 18th, he had a two-shot lead over Ben Crane and Michael Sim.

Imada will be going for his second PGA Tour victory, along with an invitation to the Masters.

He surely likes his chances better than two years ago, when he finished runnerup at Torrey Pines. He started that final round 12 shots behind and finished eight behind Tiger Woods.

"If he was here, I'm sure he'd be 10 ahead of me," Imada said. "No, it would be a different feel. But it's still a good 18 holes of golf left, and hopefully, I can keep on playing the way I've been playing this week."

Even without Woods around, Imada realized what kind of work was ahead of him.

Crane, who had 69, has made only three bogeys over 54 holes and moved into contention with four birdies on his final eight holes Saturday.

"You cannot predict what's going to happen in this game, especially on this course," Crane said.

MICKELSON UPSET: Mickelson hinted at legal action for being accused of "cheating," saying that if the PGA Tour did not do something about him being "publicly slandered," he would let others handle it.

Mickelson didn't mention Scott McCarron by name in a series of interviews after his third round at Torrey Pines.

McCarron was quoted in the San Francisco Chronicle on Friday as saying about Mickelson using the Ping-Eye 2 wedges with square grooves: "It's cheating, and I'm appalled Phil has put it in play."

European: Paul Casey shot 6-under 66 to join Bradley Dredge (70) atop the leaderboard of the Qatar Masters in Doha. Casey and Dredge are at 10-under 206, one shot ahead of Lee Westwood (70).

Nationwide: Robert Gates shot 4-under 68 to take a three-stroke lead at 16-under 200 at the New Zealand Open, the season-opening event in Queenstown.

Imada struggles less than rest, takes lead 01/30/10 [Last modified: Tuesday, November 1, 2011 6:17pm]

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