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Three tied for Champions lead

KAPALUA, Hawaii — Robert Garrigus recovered from an atrocious start Saturday by holing a 50-foot eagle putt on the 18th hole to join Steve Stricker and Jonathan Byrd in the lead at the Tournament of Champions.

In the notorious Kona wind — the toughest at Kapalua — Garrigus chunked a 4-iron into a hazard to open with double bogey and followed with a bogey to quickly fall out of the lead. By the end of the third round of the PGA Tour's season opener, he was back where he started.

The eagle gave Garrigus 4-under 69 and a good chance to become the first player since Tiger Woods in 2000 to win the opener, for last year's winners, after winning the final event of the previous year.

Garrigus, Stricker (65) and Byrd (67) were at 18-under 201, three shots clear of Carl Pettersson, who had 71.

Three Americans atop the leaderboard improved the odds of ending a dubious streak at Kapalua, where international players have won the Tournament of Champions the past eight times.

Matt Kuchar had the lead at one point by making seven birdies in a nine-hole stretch, but he played par over the final six holes for 66 and wound up four shots out of the lead.

U.S. Open champion Graeme McDowell shot 68 as he continued to get used to mountain golf atop the Pacific Ocean. He was six shots behind, along with Bill Haas (69).

Garrigus looked as though he might not break the way he started. His caddie told him to slow his swing, and a birdie on the third hole settled him.

"I thought getting back to under par was going to be good for me," Garrigus said. "That was a (heck) of a way to end the round."

Stricker turned an impossible lie into an unlikely birdie on the 12th hole, avoiding a loose piece of grass behind his ball in the bunker by hitting a 4-iron to 5 feet. It was part of five straight birdies that carried him to 65, a score he didn't think was possible in wind that makes the Plantation Course play at its longest.

Byrd, who has been around the lead all week, was steady as usual.

New year's invitational: Brandon Hagy retained the lead after the third round of the 85th annual event at St. Petersburg Country Club, shooting 2-under 70 for a total of 9-under 207, four shots ahead of Arnond Vongvanij (72). Billy Williamson (71) led the mid-amateur division at 3-under 213, and Stuart Sierra (76) led the senior division at 222. The final round is today. The event is free and open to the public.

Three tied for Champions lead 01/08/11 [Last modified: Saturday, January 8, 2011 11:38pm]
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