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Kelly Makes a Lefty Turn

Times Staff Writer

Look at it this way. Phil Mickelson might have lost his third-round match Friday, but at least the commute home wasn’t bad, only a couple of exits down the freeway in Rancho Santa Fe.

And so Mickelson, the world’s third-ranked player, took off in the same direction as second-ranked Ernie Els, who was gone on the first day of this $6-million Accenture Match Play Championship, where the only true constant has been some solid play by Tiger Woods.

Against Mickelson, Jerry Kelly wasn’t too bad himself. He had a bogey to start and then put up nothing but birdies and pars the rest of the way. Kelly eliminated Mickelson, 3 and 2, and then said he was inspired by a poll of players in a sports magazine that listed him as one of the most overrated players on the PGA Tour.

“Phil is such a nice guy, I had a hard time finding motivation for that kill factor,” Kelly said.

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Then Kelly popped open the magazine.

“That was all the motivation I needed right there,” he said. “It was voted by the players.”

It’s safe to say that no one is really overrating Woods, mainly because it’s impossible.

Woods says he’s close to playing at the top of his game, which might not be good news for Scott Hoch, who is next in line at La Costa.

If he’s supposed to be shaking in his muddy shoes or grinding his teeth or something, then that’s not Hoch. He says he knows he’s going to have his work cut out for him, but besides that, it’s no big deal.

“What’s the worst that can happen?” Hoch said. “I lose. With all the stuff going on in the world, what is that? I lose a golf match.”

Anything else?

“I’ve gotten farther than I thought I would.”

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Why?

“Last week I was playing like a dog.”

Through three rounds, anyone who thinks Woods is an easy mark is barking up the wrong tree. He did made his first bogey after 40 holes when he three-putted the ninth, but that’s about the only thing that went wrong on his way to a 7-and-6 dusting of Stephen Leaney of Australia.

Woods got off to a quick start with a birdie at the second and an eagle at the third. He chipped in from the rough at the sixth, he was 6-up after seven and never had to breath hard to get there. Woods even holed a 30-foot bunker shot for an eagle at the 11th when he wasn’t really trying to make it.

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“I wasn’t taking dead aim,” he said. “I was trying to force him to try to make his putt.”

But Leaney wasn’t making much of anything, no matter where he was on the course. Start with his tee shot at No. 1, a snap hook into some mud and under a tree. He got a drop but clipped another tree on the way out and his ball dived into the lake in front of the green. It didn’t get a whole lot better.

“I never really had a chance,” Leaney said. “He showed why he is the best in the world, he just doesn’t make mistakes. He isn’t the best player in the world for nothing.”

It’s going to be a busy day for everyone still standing at La Costa, with the quarterfinals in the morning and then the semifinals in the afternoon. If Woods gets past Hoch, he will play the winner of the match between Jay Haas and Adam Scott.

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Haas, the oldest player in the field at 49, went 20 holes to defeat Nick Price, the second-oldest at 46. It ended at the 219-yard, par-three second, when Haas knocked the ball six inches from the hole.

“To end it like I did was just such a bonus,” Haas said. “And to still be here is pretty amazing.”

Scott, who didn’t pull ahead until the 14th hole, defeated defending champion Kevin Sutherland, 2 and 1.

Scott says he’s already looking ahead to a potential final against Woods.

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“I wouldn’t mind getting there and he’s not there,” Scott said. “That would be all right too.”

David Toms, who birdied the last hole, defeated Alex Cejka, 1 up, and will play Kelly in the morning. The winner will play Darren Clarke, who scored a 2-up victory over Jim Furyk, or Peter Lonard, who knocked out fellow Australian Robert Allenby.

Clarke won this event three years ago, when he defeated Woods, 4 and 3, in the 36-hole final. He says he wishes there were more match play events.

“If I keep winning, yes,” he said. Chances are he’s not the only one who feels that way.

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(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX)

Results

Third-round results of the Accenture Match Play Championship at La Costa Resort in Carlsbad (seeding in parentheses):

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UPPER BRACKET

* Tiger Woods (1) def. Stephen Leaney (48), Australia, 7 and 6.

* Scott Hoch (25) def. Toshi Izawa (56), Japan, 4 and 3.

* Jay Haas (61) def. Nick Price (13), Zimbabwe, 20 holes.

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* Adam Scott (44), Australia, def. Kevin Sutherland (60), 2 and 1.

TODAY’S PAIRINGS

Woods vs. Hoch, Haas vs. Scott (winners play each other in today’s semifinals)

LOWER BRACKET

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* Peter Lonard (31), Australia, def. Robert Allenby (15), Australia, 1 up.

* Darren Clarke (26), Northern Ireland, def. Jim Furyk (10), 2 up.

* Jerry Kelly (19) def. Phil Mickelson (3), 3 and 2

* David Toms (6) def. Alex Cejka (54), Germany, 1 up.

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TODAY’S PAIRINGS

Lonard vs. Clarke, Kelly vs. Toms (winners play each other in today’s semifinals)


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