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Not long after slipping on his rain gear and hitting his first tee shot through a cold, steady rain, Davis Love III knew exactly what he had to do Saturday in the Nissan Open. Get in the lead, and stay in the lead.

It took him longer than he imagined, but he got the job done.

With rain dripping from the brim of his hat, Love rammed in a 40-foot birdie putt from just off the 17th green and opened up a three-stroke lead on soggy and suddenly long Riviera Country Club.

By the end of the day, he was in an ideal spot -- out of the rain, and in the lead at 10-under 203 with no guarantee another round will be played. The final round is scheduled for today (3 p.m., Ch. 4).

"It was in the front of my mind that I had to play as good a round as I could to get ahead and be ahead in case something happens tomorrow," said Love, who had a 3-under 68 despite struggling with his driver late in the round.

The forecast calls for more rain today. When -- or if -- the final round gets under way, Love will have a three-stroke headstart on Corey Pavin, Dennis Paulson, Robert Allenby and Craig Barlow as he tries to win for the second time in three weeks.

Tiger Woods was five strokes behind, a deficit that looms even larger at Riviera.

"In bad conditions, it's a bigger lead than on other courses," Love said.

At least everyone knows for sure who they are chasing. When Love made the turn, he was tied with Michael Muehr and 25 players were within four shots.

Thanks to a great par save on the 11th and an unlikely birdie on the 17th, Love gave the rest of the field a tough task -- catching the hottest player in the game. Love won three weeks ago at Pebble Beach and a week later lost in a playoff at Torrey Pines.

"The guy who controls his nerves and stays patient usually comes out on top. That's why Davis is there," said Allenby, who shot a 69 and was at 206.

Pavin returned to his old swing coach four weeks ago and took a big step toward returning to his old form. He put on a magnificent putting display for Woods and had a 67 to give himself a chance for his first victory since 1996.

"My putter was really working well," said Pavin, who took only 22 putts. "It made up for a lot of things today."

Paulson had a 68, while Barlow had a 70. Another stroke back at 207 were Muehr, Nick Price and Jeff Sluman. Seventeen players were within five shots of the lead.

Nothing went according to plan for Love. He was in perfect position to take the lead with a drive that nearly reached the green on the 315-yard 10th hole, but his pitch took a bad hop off the downslope and rolled through the green to the fringe. Love made the 20-foot birdie putt from the fringe.

Woods made 15 straight pars in his round of 69, but his position was hard to define. He has not been particularly sharp all week, has never challenged the leaders and picked up no ground on Saturday. And yet, he was only five strokes out of the lead.

"On this golf course, you really do have to play well to shoot a good number," Woods said. "If I go out there tomorrow and hit the ball well, and give myself some chances, hopefully the putts will fall and I'll get right back in this tournament."

Colbert matches record

PUEBLA, Mexico -- Jim Colbert matched the course record with a 10-under 62 for a share of the second-round lead in the Mexico Senior Classic.

Colbert, 59, who won the last of his 19 Senior PGA Tour titles in 1998, tied the mark set by Hubert Green last year in the final round of his five-stroke victory. Mike McCullough shot a 68 and Bob Eastwood had a 71 to match Colbert at 8-under 136.

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