Chip Beck capitalized on Bruce Lietzke's back-nine collapse Saturday with a 4-under-par 68 that vaulted him into the third-round lead of the $1.35-million Players Championship in Ponte Vedra, Fla.
Lietzke was five shots ahead of the field midway through the round, but suffered three bogeys and a double-bogey on the back nine to wind up in a five-way tie for third.
Tom Kite, winner last Sunday in a playoff at Bay Hill in Orlando, slipped into second place with a 69.
Beck was at 9-under-par 207 after 54 holes and Kite one shot back. Lietzke, who had a 74 Saturday, was at 209 along with defending champion Mark McCumber (70), who suffered a double bogey on the next to last hole when he three-putted from four feet; 1984 TPC winner Fred Couples (71); Ben Crenshaw (70); and Gary Koch (70).
Beck, No. 2 money winner in 1988 with nearly $927,000 after winning his first two events (Los Angeles and New Orleans) in a decade of PGA Tour play, began Saturday's action in an eight-way tie for fourth, four shots behind Lietzke.
He was six shots behind Lietzke at the turn, after playing the front nine of the wind-swept TPC of Sawgrass course in 1-under. But he was only one shot back after getting a birdie at No. 13; moved into a tie with a birdie at No. 14; and took the lead with his third birdie in four holes at No. 16.
"I feel good about the way I've been playing this week," Beck said. "This is the sort of course where you really have to hit the ball well to score and I've been concentrating better than I have in my recent outings."
Lietzke, 12-under through 45 holes, bogeyed No. 11 when he three-putted from 20 feet; suffered his double bogey at No. 12 after going into a hazard; then bogeyed No. 14 and No. 18 where he two-putted from four feet both times.
***** At Tucson, Ariz., Lori Garbacz came from two strokes back to tie Martha Nause on the 15th hole, then birdied Nos. 16 and 18 and took a two-stroke lead after three rounds in the $300,000 Tucson Open.
Garbacz, seeking her first victory in 12 years, shot a 5-under-par 67 for a 54-hole total of 204. Her 12-under-par total broke the previous three-round tournament record of 205, set by Pat Bradley in 1986.
Nause, who led by one shot after the first round and two after the second, never managed to improve on her lead before Garbacz's charge. Nause shot a 1-under-par 71 for a three-round total of 206 on the 6,243-yard Randolph North Golf Course.
Jan Stephenson, the 1983 Tucson Open champion and 1987 runnerup, started the day tied with Garbacz and shot a 71 for a total of 208.
Defending champion Laura Davies, Missie Berteotti and Jody Rosenthal were in a group at 209. Davies shot a 70 Saturday with four birdies, an eagle, two bogeys and a double bogey.
Betsy King, the LPGA's leading money-winner this year with $141,293 after winning two of four events, was at 215.