HUMBLE, Texas Johnson Wagner says he's struggled too much on the PGA Tour to apologize when things finally go his way.
Wagner got lucky bounces on two tee shots and shot a 3-under 69 on Saturday to take a one-shot lead over Chad Campbell after the third round of the Houston Open. The 28-year-old Wagner, winless in 43 career starts, had a 15-under 201 total.
Campbell, playing one group ahead of Wagner, birdied five of his first nine holes for a 65. Charley Hoffman and Bob Estes were three behind at 12 under. Estes shot a 64, the best round of the day. Hoffman had a 69. Geoff Ogilvy shot a 66 to reach 10 under, and Mathew Goggin was another shot back after a 72.
Wagner started the day three shots ahead of Hoffman and Goggin. Campbell was five back but made up that deficit in eight holes.
Wagner saw it all, including Campbell's 62-foot putt down a slope on the sixth. Campbell also holed a wedge from 88 yards for an eagle on the par-5 eighth.
"I definitely didn't like starting with a three-shot lead and seeing it erased immediately," Wagner said.
Wagner, in his second year on tour, admitted Friday that he would have to battle his nerves to win for the first time and earn an invitation to next week's Masters. He played better after Campbell tied him, sinking a 16-foot birdie putt on the par-3 ninth to get going.
On the back nine, Wagner got away with two bad tee shots, hitting a spectator on the 13th and a tree on the 15th, but escaping with two pars.
"I've had enough bad breaks not to feel bad about the good ones," he said.
Campbell was tied with Wagner for the lead until hitting his tee shot into the rough on No. 17 and taking a bogey.
The 33-year-old Campbell was the runner-up to Shaun Micheel at the 2003 PGA Championship, then won the Tour Championship later that year at The Champions in Houston. He won at Bay Hill in 2004, but has only two victories since, admitting that the run of success made him complacent.
He has four top-20 finishes this year and felt good about his game coming to Houston, even after missing the cut in New Orleans last week.
"Golf is a weird game," he said. "Lot of times, you don't get results as quick as you want them. You tend to be a little impatient."
Hoffman shot 1-under 35 on his front nine, then jump-started his round with a wedge to 4 feet on the par-4 12th. He added birdies at 13 and 14 before a bogey at the 17th.
"I gave myself a lot of chances," Hoffman said. "I could always make a few more putts coming down the stretch."
Estes started fast, with five birdies on his first eight holes. He hit his approach to the par-4 11th within three feet, then added birdies at 12 and 13 to secure his best round of a so-far forgettable year.
He's missed five cuts in eight previous starts, but decided before the Mayakoba Classic to try an interlocking grip and a glove for the first time in his career. He missed the cut, went back to the 10-finger grip he's used since last year and tied for 33rd in New Orleans.
But the 42-year-old Estes knew he got away with some bad shots last week and returned to the interlock this week. He's starting to wonder how his career would've gone if he'd gone with the interlock sooner.
"Small things like that can make a big difference out here," Estes said. "If I haven't figured out how to hold onto the golf club until the age of 42, then you know why I've had to go through so much."
The second round was completed on Saturday morning after a storm delayed play for almost two hours on Friday.
Defending champion Adam Scott, who shared the first-round lead with Wagner, withdrew Saturday morning because of strep throat. Scott played 14 holes after the storm and shot a 76 in the second round.
NABISCO CHAMPIONSHIP: At Rancho Mirage, Calif., the only consolation for Lorena Ochoa was a one-shot lead in the Kraft Nabisco Championship.
Just when it looked as though Ochoa would seize control of the first major of the year, she three-putted for bogey on two of the final four holes and settled for a 1-under 71 on Saturday, with only one shot separating her from Hee-Won Han.
The Mexican star must know by now that this major won't come easily.
Despite opening the back nine with three straight birdies to build a two-shot lead and loads of momentum, Ochoa gave it away with an aggressive three-putt on the 15th, and by chopping her way up the 18th in the rough and the sand.
Han had a 70 and will play in the final group of a major for the first time.
"It was an up and down day," Ochoa said. "Today was difficult golf. It was hard from tee to green."
U.S. Women's Open champion Cristie Kerr was all but forgotten until finishing a 66 before the leaders made the turn, leaving her in the group only two shots behind.
Annika Sorenstam suffered stomach cramps so severe that she nearly walked off the course after 10 holes but tried to gut it out and is glad she did. Sorenstam had four birdies on the back nine for a 73, and was only four shots behind.
Going into the final round, where the pressure and desert heat is rising, 14 players were separated by five shots.
Seven of those players are major champions.
Ochoa looked disgusted as she stood on the edge of the 18th green, staring up at the blazing sky with her hands on hips. She has twice felt jilted at Mission Hills, blowing a three-shot lead in the final round in 2006, and squandering another good chance last year when she whiffed a chip shot and made a quadruple bogey on the 17th hole of the third round.
There was no meltdown Saturday, just a slow retreat to a suddenly packed leaderboard.
"I'm OK," she said. "I'm in the last group and I have a chance to win a major."
Kerr was joined at 212 by Seon Hwa Lee (68) and Maria Hjorth, who bogeyed the 18th hole for a 72. Another shot back was a group that included Swedish pioneer Liselotte Neumann (71) and Heather Young, who was tied with Ochoa to start the third round and was in the lead by herself at the turn until she stumbled to a 74.
Sorenstam turned in the most inspiring round.
She seemingly took herself out of the tournament with a 40 on the back nine, and was sick enough to quit. She told her caddie, Terry McNamara, that she did not want to walk off the course, but she felt that was her only option. Even after a birdie on No. 10, she laid on her back, feeling nausea.
"A few birdies kept me going," she said.
One of those came from a bunker shot on No. 15, but she finished weakly, missing a 3-foot birdie putt on the 18th that ended her streak of 16 consecutive rounds under par.
Even so, she was at 214 along with Suzann Pettersen, who got the fireworks going on a dynamic day in the desert.
Pettersen, who captured her first major last year at the LPGA Championship, made the cut on the number Friday and was 10 shots behind. Among the first to play Saturday morning when the wind was tame, she holed out with a 6-iron for eagle on the tough seventh hole and shot a 65, the best score of the tournament.
"I played myself into the tournament again," Pettersen said. "Seven under is pretty good on a Saturday in a major. I'm right there."
Then came Kerr, who apparently picked the right fortune cookie after dinner Friday night in a Chinese restaurant.
"I went for the fortune cookie on the left and it said, 'A great day ahead' in capital letters. So go figure," Kerr said.
Even though she watched five birdie putts catch the lip, she fired a 66 that she thought would get her back into the tournament, not knowing when she left Mission Hills just how close she would be.
"I played beautiful golf today," Kerr said. "I mean, it was really beautiful to watch, if I do say so myself."
Also entertaining a small measure of hope was Karrie Webb, who came from seven shots behind in the last round two years ago to win on the strength of a pitching wedge she holed for eagle on the 72nd hole, followed by a birdie in the playoff.
He highlight Saturday was a 6-iron that one-hopped into the hole for an ace on the difficult par-3 eighth, and keeping mistakes to a minimum on the back nine when the wind picked up and blew across every fairway, the toughest conditions of all.
She settled for a 69 and was in the group at 1-under 215 that included Se Ri Pak (73), who needs this major to become the seventh woman to capture the career Grand Slam.
Despite so many players in contention, they still are chasing the No. 1 player.
Ochoa won the Women's British Open last summer at St. Andrews, so she now is equipped with the experience of winning a major. She found it far more important to have won twice this year in three starts, by a combined 18 shots.
Someone asked if this would be her most meaningful win, considering the trouble she has faced, and the additional pressure of playing before so many Mexican flags in the gallery.
"Hopefully, I win and jump in the lake," Ochoa said. "Then I'll let you know how it ranks."
CAP CANA CHAMPIONSHIP: At Punta Cana, Dominican Republic, Mark Wiebe shot a 4-under 68 to take a three-stroke lead over Scott Hoch in the Champions Tour's Cap Cana Championship.
Wiebe's bogey-free round, highlighted by an eagle-birdie run, pushed him to 9-under 135. After starting his round by making seven straight pars, Wiebe holed out a wedge shot from 45 yards for an eagle on the par-4 eighth hole. Wiebe, the SAS Championship winner last year, then birdied the par-4 ninth.
Hoch, a two-time winner on the Champions Tour already this year, shot a 67. Jay Haas (69) and Eduardo Romero (68) were four strokes behind Wiebe.
ESTORIL OPEN: At Cascais, Portugal, France's Gregory Bourdy shot a 3-under 68 to extend his lead to four strokes in the Estoril Open.
Bourdy had a 17-under 196 total. Scotland's Alistair Forsyth (66) was 13 under, and England's Miles Tunnicliff (63) and South Africa's Charl Schwartzel (66) were 12-under.