LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. For years, PGA Tour players at Disney was a guarantee that birdies would fall as often as the whistle blows across the street at Thunder Mountain.
Stephen Ames gladly would have settled for a few pars Saturday afternoon.
After so much volatility on the leaderboard, the final holes on the Magnolia Course turned into a grind at the Children's Miracle Network Classic, and Scott Verplank made three pars that allowed him to surge into a tie for the lead with Ames.
"They're hard holes now, not that there's anything wrong with that," Verplank said after a 71. "But they don't fit the rest of the golf course because of that. Those are difficult holes just to make pars on. I can see that scenario becoming more common around here, versus having to birdie the last three holes."
Ames had the largest lead of the day at two shots before three-putt bogeys from 60 feet on No. 16 and just off the green from 70 feet on the 18th. He finished with a 70 to join Verplank at 13-under 203.
"There's got to be 30 guys that have a chance to win," Verplank said.
Verplank and Ames had a one-shot lead over five players, including Justin Leonard (70) and long-shot Tag Ridings (71), who is No. 210 on the money list and must win to secure his job for next year.
Two dozen players were separated by four shots going into the final round of the last PGA Tour event of the year.
"If you play steady tomorrow, you'll have some birdie opportunities and be at the top of the board at the end of the day," Ames said.
He played better than most, riding consecutive birdies on the 13th and 14th holes to a two-shot lead before his approach shots went to the opposite end of the green from where the flag was whipping in the wind.
That's no disgrace on the Magnolia Course, at least not anymore.
"It wasn't an easy day," Leonard said. "If you could shoot a couple under, you knew you weren't going to lose ground."
Verplank lost ground early.
He had gone 40 holes without a bogey at Disney until making his first one of the tournament on the par-4 fifth when he blasted a bunker shot 40 feet past the pin. He chipped weakly and missed a 6-foot par putt on the next hole to fall out of the lead.
From there, it became a revolving door of leaders with five players tied at one point.When it finally sorted itself out, Verplank and Ames were on top and will be in the final group with Tim Petrovic, who played bogey-free on the back nine and quietly posted a 68.
NATIONWIDE: At Lakeside, Calif., Richard Johnson birdied the final three holes for a 4-under 67 and a one-stroke lead over Tom Scherrer on Saturday after the third round of the season-ending Nationwide Tour Championship.
MIZUNO CLASSIC: At Shima, Japan, Laura Davies was penalized two strokes for putting from the wrong place, a penalty that dropped the 44-year-old English star into a tie for the lead with Momoko Ueda in the Mizuno Classic. Davies settled for an even-par 72 and a tie with Ueda (67) at 7-under 137. Reilley Rankin (72), Sweden's Maria Hjorth (68) and Japan's Mie Nakata (70) were one stroke back.