Early risers make run at Colonial

FORT WORTH -- Moments after he finished his third round of the Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial on Saturday, Ryan Palmer did not believe he had much of a chance of contending in Sunday's final round.

"I'm going to need all the help I can from him," said Palmer, who shot a 66 to leave him at 6 under.

"Him" was David Toms, who moved to 17 under with a birdie on the first hole at right about the time Palmer was talking, and he helped.

Palmer -- and many other golfers -- can thank Toms, but they should also thank Palmer's home course, Colonial Country Club.

After being reduced to a virtual pitch-and-putt the first two days because of light breezes and greens made softer because of a Friday afternoon rainstorm, Colonial bared its teeth Saturday. The field was brought closer together than many could have imagined after Toms opened a seven-stroke lead with a PGA Tour-record 124 through two rounds.

The wind blew harder in the afternoon and the pins were in difficult spots.

"I felt like they were protecting the course today," said Toms, who was one stroke behind Charlie Wi after a 4-over 74. "Some of the pins we had for the wind directions that we were playing, it was tough to get the ball close to the pin and then shoot a low number. That's fine. It should be tough on the weekend, especially after a guy had already ripped up the golf course.

"If I'm Colonial, I want it to play tougher. I have no problems with the way it played. I just didn't play very well."

Aside from Wi's 66, the four lowest rounds of the day belonged to golfers with tee times no later than 9:38 a.m. D.J. Trahan (9:29 a.m.) made the cut by a stroke Friday and found himself tied for seventh after a 65, the lowest round of the day.

Of the final 10 pairings, only five golfers broke par. Two shot an even 70. Thirteen shot over par.

Toms had his first double-bogey at Colonial in 343 holes when he took a six on the par-4 14th hole. He had three bogeys in his first six holes after not making one bogey in his first 36.

"I just never did feel in control," Toms said.

Wi never felt out of control. He felt Friday's conditions and pin placements were more difficult. He had only one bogey to go with five birdies, including a 32-foot putt for birdie on No. 16 after an 80-minute weather delay that gave him his first lead.

Such is the nature of golf where one person's trash is another person's treasure.

"I don't want to say too much because golf is such a fickle game," Wi said. "You never know what's going to happen tomorrow."

Toms wasn't the only golfer to ride a scoring roller coaster Saturday, just the most unforeseen because of how well he played in the first two rounds.

After getting to 10 under with a birdie at No. 12, John Senden made bogeys on two of his next three holes. He finished with a 70 and was in third. Mark Wilson opened with back-to-back birdies but made a double-bogey at No. 15 when his second shot went into the water. He shot a 71 and was tied for fourth.

Rory Sabbatini had a double-bogey on No. 7 on his way to a 71. Chez Reavie, tied with Toms after the first round, had six birdies Saturday ... and seven bogeys. He was tied for 12th. Rickie Fowler, who had a chance at a course record in Thursday's first round, shot a 73 and was tied for 17th.

For Toms, the chance to win from behind will be a welcome one. He played from the lead last week at The Players Championship only to lose to K.J. Choi in a playoff.

"Maybe I'll sleep a little better because I don't have the lead anymore," Toms said. "I've been playing with the lead for about two weeks now. It's not always the easiest thing to do. Maybe I'll go out there with a little pressure off of me and see if we can do better."

Todd Archer covers golf for ESPNDallas.com.