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Love III heats up on the back 9

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LEMONT, Ill. — After flirting with birdies all over the front nine, something clicked when Davis Love III made the turn.

Maybe he felt Scott Hoch, Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods closing in on him.

Love birdied the first three holes of the back nine Saturday and went on to shoot a 3-under-par 69, giving him a one-stroke lead after the third round of the Western Open. He's at 14-under 202 for the tournament.

But Love can't get too comfortable.

Hoch is at 203 after making birdies on the final four holes for a 66. Mickelson (67) birdied three of his last four holes and is five strokes back.

And Woods finally broke out of his "slump" with a flurry of birdies on the back nine, getting within seven strokes with a 68.

Woods could have been even closer, after making an eagle and two birdies on the front nine. But he gave all the strokes back with two double-bogeys.

"Today was one of those rounds where I can't explain it. It was just an interesting day," Woods said. "I figured something out last night with my golf swing. I started hitting the ball the way I used to and started hitting the ball my normal distances again."

Mark Wiebe, the first-round leader, and Brandel Chamblee are four strokes back.

Love had birdie chances on almost every hole on the front nine, including a few maddening misses. On the par-4 8th, his 15-foot putt bumped the edge of the cup and kept rolling.

He missed an eagle on the par-5 No. 5 when his 18-foot putt rolled along the right edge and stopped, clinging to the rim but refusing to drop.

But Love's score started dropping as soon as he made the turn. On the par-4 10th, his second shot from about 90 yards out hit the green and rolled back, stopping about 1 1/2 feet from the cup.

The crowd roared, and Love smiled and waved as he approached the green, where he tapped in for a birdie. He picked up strokes with birdies on the next two holes.

He had an impressive birdie on the par-5 15th. His approach overshot the green and landed in the rough. But his chip shot landed on the edge of the green, took a couple of hops and rolled into the cup.

Love faltered a little down the stretch. He bogeyed the par-4 16th when he missed a par putt from about 4 feet. And his birdie putt on 18 stopped at the edge of the cup but refused to roll in.

Love is going to have to make those shots Sunday with the way the rest of the field is heating up. Woods is the most intriguing of the contenders. He's been struggling for weeks now, trying to find his swing.

He thought he'd found the answer at the driving range Friday night, but every time he made a move on the front nine, he slid right back.

After drilling a tough, 38-foot putt for eagle on the par-5 No. 5 — prompting a fist bump with caddie Steve Williams — he three-putted on the par-3 6th for a double-bogey. He sent his tee shot flying into the gallery on No. 7, but made an amazing recovery with a shot that left him 3 feet from the pin for an easy birdie.

But he three-putted again on the 8th for another double-bogey.

"With five holes to go, I wasn't really into it," he said. "Two-under-par wasn't looking too good."