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Goggin poised to capture first career victory on PGA Tour

DUBLIN, Ohio -- Mathew Goggin tried to keep his balance on the bank of a creek, looking for a way out of trouble at the Memorial. He quickly abandoned those thoughts, chipped out to the 14th fairway and took a bogey.

Muirfield Village was no place for heroics Saturday, not in such difficult conditions, not with a guy looking for his first PGA Tour victory.

It was that type of patience that carried Goggin to a 1-under 71 in the rain-delayed third round, giving him a three-shot lead and the highest score by a 54-hole leader at the Memorial in nearly two decades.

Goggin could have played toward the green, but the ball would have been parallel to his chest.

"Unless I was Phil Mickelson, I wasn't going to try that," he said.

He picked up a birdie on the next hole, hung on with pars and wound up at 8-under 208, three shots clear of former Masters champion Mike Weir and four others going into the final round.

"It's definitely his tournament to win," said Kenny Perry, whose birdie on the 18th hole gave him a 74 and put him in the group at 211. "If he shoots 75, then the door's wide open for everybody."

Not since Roger Maltbie in 1976 -- the first year of the tournament Jack Nicklaus built -- has a player won the Memorial on his first visit. Goggin's last victory was 10 years ago in the Australasian Tour Championship, and he has said all week that a first- and second-round lead don't mean much on this circuit.

What about now?

"That's an interesting situation," he said. "Expectations are rising. You're three in front, you expect to win, don't you? But it's a tough golf course, and I'm going to feel the same amount of pressure tomorrow as what I did today. It's a great opportunity.

"Three shots in front, I expect to win."

But he doesn't expect it to be easy, not at a Muirfield Village course that resembles a U.S. Open from the 1990s, and not with five players stacked up behind him.

Mike Weir matched the best round of the day, a bogey-free 68 that put him at 5-under 211 and in the final group with Goggin, who has never had a 54-hole lead on the PGA Tour. Matt Kuchar was among those going backward until holing out with a wedge for eagle on the 15th, following that with a birdie on the 16th and posting a 71 .

Also at 211 was Justin Rose (70), who captured the European Tour Order of Merit last year but has yet to win on this side of the Atlantic; Jerry Kelly, whose superb ball-striking was wasted by 34 putts in his round of 73; and Perry, whose spirits were lifted with his birdie on the final hole.

Perry, a two-time champion at the Memorial who has squandered two good chance to win this month, missed six putts inside 10 feet on the back nine as he slid further away from Goggin. But the birdie on No. 18 kept him in the game.

"The guys at 3 under are in this golf tournament," Perry said. "If Mathew has an off day tomorrow, it brings the whole field in."

No one knows what to expect from Goggin, who has shown steady play and healthy perspective throughout the week. He wasn't even rattled by a 2½-hour rain delay that caused the final group to finish among tall shadows.

The 33-year-old Australian was tied with Perry to start the third round, and as usual, he got out of the blocks quickly with a 35-foot birdie on the opening hole and a wedge that steadied itself in the wind and landed 5 feet away on No. 3.

Perry got within one shot before he started missing greens and missing par putts, and Goggin kept at least a two-shot margin throughout the back nine, even as cheers were all around him.

"You can't press out here," he said. "You've got to let the birdies come to you."

His best plays might have been for par. Goggin got up-and-down from the back bunker on the par-3 12th, then faced a tough shot from a deep bunker right of the 17th green. His shot was running quickly until it struck the pin, rattled around to the other side and settled 2 feet away to keep his distance.

Weir, lost amid the Phil Mickelson-Sergio Garcia grouping the first two days, has steadily crept up the leaderboard and stayed out of trouble most of the day. He picked up a birdie on the par-5 fifth, and thought he was in trouble on the sixth when his tee shot caught a gust, leaving him 215 to a shallow green over the pond.

"I knifed a 3-iron in there about 8 feet," Weir said. "That's when I knew that things were going pretty good. I was hitting solid shots, and outside of that, I didn't have much trouble."

Weir didn't read too much into Goggin's inexperience with the lead.

Two years ago, he was tied with Arron Oberholser going into the final round of the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, caught a few bad breaks with mud early in the round and staggered home to a 78 as Oberholser collected his first tour victory.

"You know what? You have to win some time," Weir said. "And sometimes a guy, when he hasn't won, is hungry and wants to do it. Inexperience or not, Mat's been around a long time and he's a good player."

Nick O'Hern (72) was at 4-under 212, while former U.S. Open champion Geoff Ogilvy was in the group at 213, five shots behind. That might seem like a lot, but it's the margin K.J. Choi made up a year ago.

Mickelson, meanwhile, never recovered from a double bogey on the 17th hole and shot 70, leaving him nine shots back.