What Sunday's contenders need to do (and avoid)

8/19/2006 - Golf

MEDINAH, Ill. -- Received a telling e-mail midway through the PGA Championship third round that sums up the day's festivities nicely:

I went out to mow the lawn and there were 10 guys in the lead at 8-under. When I finished, Luke Donald was 12-under ... and my lawn's not that big!

With 11 players within six shots of the lead entering the final round, there's more separation in the NL wild card race than at Medinah. Then again, when Tiger Woods is one of the names atop the leaderboard, things can get separated in a hurry.

Here's what Tiger -- and everyone else in contention going into Sunday -- needs to accomplish and avoid in order to be crowned champion.

Tiger Woods: 14-under 202.

Needs to ... keep firing at the flagsticks. Woods leads the field in greens in regulation, which means he's been able to make birdies -- 16 of 'em in 54 holes so far -- without even rolling the rock that well. If his iron play is as good on Sunday as it was during the third round, he'll be clutching the Wanamaker Trophy for the third time come sundown.
Needs to avoid ... uh, kryptonite? You'll hear this fact ad infinitum over the next 24 hours, but Woods has never lost a major when entering the final round with at least a share of the lead. That said, no one's going to hand him the title just because his name is Tiger Woods. One or two bad holes could tarnish his legend.

Luke Donald: 14-under 202.

Needs to ... attack the pins early. Donald shot a 5-under 31 on the front nine in his third round. He's going to have to put the pedal to the metal on the opening holes once again to show Woods that he's not intimidated.
Needs to avoid ... looking directly into his playing partner's eyes. Donald will be paired with Woods, a daunting task for any player. This kid's known as a cool customer, but let's see what 18 holes with You Know Who does to his nerves.

Mike Weir: 12-under 204.

Needs to ... finish stronger. Weir ranks 157th in final-round scoring average on the PGA Tour this season, including a Sunday 7-over 79 at The Players Championship after entering the day in a share of fourth place.
Needs to avoid ... the rough. In the first round, Weir hit six fairways and shot 72; in the second round, he hit nine fairways and shot 67; in the third round, he hit 11 fairways and shot 65. Hmm ... see a pattern here?

Geoff Ogilvy: 11-under 205.

Needs to ... hope the leaders all spray their drives off the roof of a merchandise tent on the final hole, leading to double-bogey and leaving Ogilvy as the champion. (That was a joke. Sort of.)
Needs to avoid ... failing to score on the back-nine par-5 holes. Ogilvy, who ranks 27th on tour in par-5 scoring average, is a combined 7-under this week on the fifth and seventh holes, but only even-par on Nos. 10 and 14.

Sergio Garcia: 10-under 206.

Needs to ... party like it's 1999. Sergio would love to channel his inner 19-year-old, who finished in second place that year and, more importantly, was playing with confidence. Asked if he'll have more confidence in Sunday's final round based on that performance, Garcia responded, "I don't know. I guess." Ouch.
Needs to avoid ... the big number. That triple-bogey 7 on Friday's 11th hole is still the only blemish on his scorecard, but it's a major one; he's made only two other bogeys this week. For a guy who struggles with holing putts, Garcia is quite unhappy to see so many red numbers on the leaderboard.

Shaun Micheel: 10-under 206.

Needs to ... uh, party like it's ... 2003? Though it's been three years -- and he's hardly contended for any titles since then -- Micheel should be able to call on his triumph at Oak Hill for some much-needed experience in the final round.
Needs to avoid ... settling for pars on the finishing stretch of holes. For the week, Micheel is 13-under on Medinah's opening 11 holes. Which means he's 3-over on the final seven. Yikes. The winner is going to need some birdies coming in, especially if he's four shots back entering the day.

K.J. Choi: 9-under 207.

Needs to ... post a number. There are some pretty experienced players ahead of Choi on the leaderboard, but if he can post a strong score, say a 65 or 66, it may give the others something to think about as they play the final holes.
Needs to avoid ... mistakes. Right now, you're thinking, doesn't everyone? Well yes, but Choi has made more mistakes than his peers. His eight total bogeys is the most of anyone in the top-10. Birdies are plentiful on this course, but when they're counteracted with bogeys, it's tough to make up ground.

The field: 8-under and above.
Needs to ... make birdies at an alarming rate. With such an experienced leaderboard, it's doubtful everyone will come back to the pack, which means the players in this category -- led by Phil Mickelson, Chris DiMarco, Ian Poulter and Tim Herron at 8-under -- really need to go low.
Needs to avoid ... feeling like they're out of it. Sure, these guys are all at least six shots back, but as we've seen before, anything can happen in major championships. These players need to go after it like they still have a shot to win.

Jason Sobel is ESPN.com's golf editor. He can be reached at Jason.Sobel@espn3.com