Howell leads Perry by a stroke at AT&T

By: Associated Press
By: Associated Press

DULUTH, Ga. -- Holding a 54-hole lead isn't exactly the best way for Charles Howell III to win on the PGA Tour.

Howell already has two career victories, but he's 0-for-3 following a third-round lead. The last time he led the field entering the last round was the 2007 Sony Open, a memory Howell wants to block out.

"Yes, there's your answer," he said, laughing. "Finished second to [Paul] Goydos."

Howell shot a 5-under 67 on Saturday to take a one-stroke lead over Kenny Perry into the final round of the AT&T Classic.

An Augusta native seeking his first victory since the 2007 Nissan Open, Howell had a 13-under 203 total at TPC Sugarloaf.

Perry shot a 69. David Toms (69), Ryan Palmer (70) and second-round leader Jonathan Byrd (73) were two strokes back at 11 under.

With storms expected Sunday afternoon, the players will tee off in threesomes, starting on both the first and 10th holes. Howell, Perry and Toms will open play at 10:15 a.m. on No. 1.

"It will be different," Howell said. "It's not the normal twosomes later in the day. From what I understand, it's going to be quite windy. This golf course is really tough in the wind. There's a lot of risk-reward out here. A lot of it."

Ryuji Imada, second to Zach Johnson in a playoff last year, shot a 66 to tie Heath Slocum (69) or sixth and move within three shots of the lead.

On the four par 5s, Howell leads the field at 10 under with birdies Saturday at Nos. 6 and 10. He eagled the sixth hole Thursday.

Avoiding temptation to go for corner pins was important to Howell, who describes the Greg Norman-designed Sugarloaf as a good fit, mostly because it doesn't demand so many drivers off the tee.

"There is some strategy and thought off the tees as well as into the greens," Howell said. "That's why I think it's so important to get the ball in play off the tee. There are slopes in these greens, and you can use them to help you go to the flags, but you've got to have the ball in play."

Perry seems fully recovered from an 81 in the final round last week at The Players Championship. He was just one shot off the lead after 54 rounds at TPC Sawgrass before windy conditions and faulty irons wrecked his weekend.

Now that he will play in the final group again, Perry believes he's ready to make up for his disappointment at the Players. An eagle at the par 5 No. 4 Saturday refueled his confidence after his 3-wood landed within 20 feet and he made the putt.

"I had the mind-set that I was going to shoot a low round," Perry said. "That was just kind of in my head today. I felt very comfortable out there. I wasn't nervous. My swing felt great."

Imada and Justin Bolli (68) are both former University of Georgia standouts seeking their first tour victory. Bolli is in eighth place, four shots back.

Omar Uresti, one of four players tied for ninth and five strokes off the lead, had a tournament-best 65. Brett Quigley (68), Steve Elkington (68), Craig Kanada (69) and Camilo Villegas (71) also were 8 under.

Byrd led the field by three shots after two rounds, but he dropped three strokes to 9 under with three bogeys through his first eight holes.

Imada, who will play in the next-to-last threesome with Byrd and Palmer, envisions a frantic shootout with the field set up similarly to a typical first or second round.

"Hopefully nobody's going to run away the last four or five holes," Imada said. "If I'm within three or four shots of the lead, I know I've got a chance. And I'd say there's about 15 guys who have a chance to win if that's the case. So I just want to go out there and make a lot of birdies."

Howell, who's coming off a missed cut at the Players, plans to block out any memories of his last three 54-hole leads. As long as stays in the fairway, Howell likes his chances.

"The one thing I've worked extremely hard on over the past year is driving the ball," Howell said. "Simply because that starts the hole. It puts you in position to play the golf course. Not taking anything away from the importance of the short game, but you've got to drive the ball first."


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