NOTEBOOK \ AT&T National

Stadler’s ace: Kevin Stadler stole the spotlight from Tiger Woods, at least for one hole. Stadler, Woods’ playing partner for the third round of the AT&T National on Saturday, wowed the gallery with a hole-in-one on the 196-yard, par-3 13th. His shot with a 6-iron landed below the hole, rolled up the slight slope and disappeared into the cup. “I never expected it was going to go in, but I thought I hit a really good shot,” said Stadler, who has a handful of aces in his career. “It kind of took a hop in the right direction. I was walking up there and the place went crazy.” Woods and Stadler had both walked off the tee box before Stadler’s ace dropped. They couldn’t see the ball go in, but upon hearing the crowd roar and realizing what happened, Woods gave Stadler an emphatic high-five. “All of a sudden, I watched him, he’s trying to talk to his caddie, I’m trying to write down scores for Kevin and it goes in and he says, ‘What happened?’ ” Woods said. “It was kind of a shocker.” With his ace, Stadler won the hearts of those in the sizable gallery following Woods. The crowd, which was 15-deep in some places around the course, was still buzzing when Woods lined up his 21-foot birdie putt. Someone in the crowd yelled for Woods to let Stadler take the putt. The cheer Stadler received after the hole-in-one was louder than any for Woods during the round. Stadler, the son of PGA golfer Craig Stadler, finished the day tied with Woods at 2 under for the tournament and seven strokes behind leader Stuart Appleby. “That was the most thoroughly enjoyable round of golf I’ve had in who knows how long,” said Stadler, who was paired with Woods for the second time in his career. “For a change I didn’t get in my own way out there. I was kind of having fun and taking all this in. It was probably 10 times the biggest gallery I’ve ever been in.”

In contention: Mike Weir and Steve Stricker have positioned themselves to end long winless streaks. Stricker and Weir will comprise the next-to-last pairing in today’s final round after they both shot 3-under 67 on Saturday. Stricker, who hasn’t won since 2001, is three strokes off the lead at 6 under. Weir, winless since 2004, is at 5 under. “I’m ready to win again,” Stricker said. Stricker has come close to ending his drought several times this season. He has four top 10 finishes, including a second-place finish at the Wachovia Championship in early May. He entered this week’s tournament at 21st on the tour money list, a sign of resurgence after finishing in the top 10 only three times from 2002-05. Weir doesn’t have a top 10 finish this season and is 102nd on the money list. Two of his best three finishes this year, though, have come at majors. He placed 20th at both the Masters and the U.S. Open. Weir eagled the par-5 16th on Saturday to move up the leaderboard. His second shot from 261 yards landed 12 feet from the hole, and he sank the putt. Despite his winless streak, Weir doesn’t feel pressure to win. “It would be great to do it,” Weir said, “but I’m just glad to be playing well.”

Associated Press

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