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Par save is Laird's 'lucky' lead-saver

ORLANDO — Martin Laird already had lost a four-shot lead Saturday at Bay Hill, and as his 6-iron on the par-3 17th began to fade weakly toward the pond, he wondered if a two-shot lead would disappear even quicker.

He was happy to see his ball land in a bunker, some 80 feet from the flag. Then came a long blast from the sand to 6 feet and a par save that felt like a birdie. It was like that all day at the Arnold Palmer Invitational. Only one thing didn't change.

Laird never surrendered the lead. He made it through an up-and-down day with 2-under 70 for a three-day total of 11-under 205 and a two-shot lead over Spencer Levin.

"That was a big one," Laird said of his par save on the 17th, one hole after a two-shot swing gave him a cushion. "I was lucky."

With wind in the forecast for today, six players are separated by five shots. That includes two players who appear to be getting closer to their first PGA Tour win, Steve Marino (71) and Rickie Fowler (70).

That group doesn't include Tiger Woods. The six-time Bay Hill winner had another Saturday swoon, trading an eagle and birdies with bogeys and a double bogey that sent him to 2-over 74 and left him 10 shots out of the lead.

"I made a few mistakes out there," Woods said. "There was a point in the round I had to get more aggressive on 13 and paid the price for it. I figured I needed to shoot 3 or 4 under, and it backfired on me a little bit.

"Hopefully the wind blows (today) and I can post a good one. And I can get a little momentum going into Augusta."

This is Woods' last tournament before next month's Masters.

Nothing short of a victory would send Levin to the Masters.

"That's in the back of my mind, for sure," he said. "That's a nice thing to be thinking about — hopefully try not to think about it, though. You have to think about what you're doing here."

LPGA: Jiyai Shin shot 3-under 70 to maintain the lead at the Kia Classic at Industry, Calif. At 15-under 204, she was one shot ahead of Sandra Gal (70) after three rounds of the tournament, which got back on schedule after a rain delay Friday left 72 players having to complete the second round in the morning. Na Yeon Choi was in third at 9 under after the third round's lowest score, 65. Seminole's Brittany Lincicome was 1 over after finishing her second round (74) and shooting 73 in the third.

Par save is Laird's 'lucky' lead-saver 03/26/11 [Last modified: Saturday, March 26, 2011 11:33pm]

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