Monday, March 2

Beem goes from hunted to hunter

CHASKA, Minn. -- There was no reason to expect Rich Beem to be leading the PGA Championship with five holes to play in the third round Saturday. Apparently, Beem didn't expect it, either.

Rich Beem
Rich Beem tried to get too aggressive down the stretch on Saturday; as a result, he's three strokes back.

''It's a major, and guys like me aren't supposed to contend in a major,'' Beem said.

So because he tried being Tiger Woods instead of himself as the wind calmed down and the birdies started coming for the leaders late in the afternoon, Beem is three shots down to Justin Leonard entering Sunday's final round.

After spending 2 days carefully building a 1-shot lead going into the 14th hole, Beem lost it in a potentially pivotal five-hole swing that turned Beem from leader to chaser.

Maybe it's because he was playing on the Dakotas Tour only a couple of years ago, and not playing all that well. But it seemed as if Beem suddenly realized where he was -- and began to wonder what he was doing there.

''I don't have any expectations of winning,'' he said. ''It takes something special to win a major, and I don't know if I've got it. ... It's going to be really tough to catch (Leonard).''

So much for being overconfident.

What might have hurt him was being overly aggressive. He started to chase birdies as the scoring conditions improved, rather than letting them come to him.

''I don't stick to game plans very well,'' Beem said. ''I kind of make it up as I go along.''

Leading by a shot going into the par-4 14th, Beem hit his tee shot far right, behind a tree in the deep rough. Instead of hitting into the fairway and pitching up, he tried being Tigerlike and going for it. He wound up hitting into a bunker to the left of the green and settling for a bogey -- his first of the day -- that dropped him into a tie with Leonard.

Then on 15, he aroused the attention of some spectators, and the rules official who accompanied him, by swiping at a piece of debris in front of his ball with his cap. A player cannot use any equipment to do so on the green, but Beem escaped penalty because he was on the fringe.

''I know the rules and I didn't think twice about it, but I knew it would get some attention,'' he said. ''Mission accomplished. I just wanted to give everybody something to talk about.''

Instead, they were talking for another reason. His game suddenly turning on him, just as the gusting wind that blew across Hazeltine National all day began to decrease, he bogeyed the par-3 17th after his tee shot hit a tree limb and fell into a bunker.

''I thought I hit a good shot,'' he said. ''I still don't know how that happened.''

He saved par by sinking a putt on 18, but the damage was done: As he had bogeys on two of the last five holes, Leonard had birdies on 15 and 16.

Now the former stereo salesman and assistant club pro -- he was told by his pro to either pursue a PGA career or get out of the game -- must come from behind if he's going to win his first major.

Despite sounding uncertain of his own ability to win Sunday, Beem did so only three weeks ago in The International, holding on for his second PGA Tour victory, even as Steve Lowery had a double eagle, eagle and birdie on the last five holes.

''I'm not saying it's impossible (to win),'' he said. ''I'm looking forward to seeing what it takes to win a major.''

Saturday: Leonard beats the wind to take control

PGA Championship third-round scores

An early morning treat from Tiger

Kraft: Tiger a par machine

PGA Championship tee times

Funk Fever catching on at Hazeltine

Harig: Tiger's new challenge

Frozen Moment: Leonard's stick on 16

Kraft: A wild back nine

PGA Championship -- Third-round scorecards

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