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Tiger in danger of losing top spot as Mickelson pounces

india Updated: May 09, 2010 08:45 IST

AFP
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World number one Tiger Woods struggled Saturday in his comeback after a sex scandal and could see his five-year rankings reign ended by Phil Mickelson at the Players Championship.

Woods finished with back-to-back bogeys and staggered to a one-under par 71 in Saturday's third round of the 9.5 million-dollar US PGA event as Mickelson charged into contention for the victory he needs to take over the top spot.

If Masters champion Mickelson wins the 1.71 million-dollar top prize and Woods finishes outside the top five, the 39-year-old US left-hander would move past Woods into the top ranking for the first time in his career.

"Tiger, say so long to number one. Kiss it goodbye," yelled a young heckler after Woods finished signing his scorecard Saturday.

Woods, a 14-time major champion chasing the record 18 won by Jack Nicklaus, is playing only his third event since ending a five-month layoff at the Masters last month after admitting to cheating on wife Elin with multiple mistresses.

"This is a process, especially since I haven't played at all," Woods said. "I just need more rounds."

England's Lee Westwood fired a two-under 70 on Saturday to stand on 14-under 202 after 54 holes, one stroke ahead of Australian Robert Allenby and five ahead of Mickelson, the man he finished second to at the Masters last month.

"I felt like things started to click a little bit and I think I've got one more low round in me," Mickelson said. "I just hope that it will be enough."

Woods finished 54 holes in a share of 45th on four-under par 212 but by hitting only six of 14 fairways and just 12 of 18 greens in regulation, showed that he is far from the dominating figure who has ruled golf for years.

After a disappointing par at the par-five 16th, Woods three-putted the par-three 17th before leaking his approach shot into the right rough at the par-four 18th.

"I thought if I could have birdied 16 and 17, I'd have been right back in the tournament," Woods said.

"I need so much help today and tomorrow and it doesn't look like that's probably going to be the case. There are too many guys out there."