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LEADER BOARD LOGJAM POINTS TO WILD OPEN FINISH

The U.S. Golf Association will air an episode of Survivor today disguised as the final round of the U.S. Open.

Six players are in prime contention to win, and all of them predicted the victory would go to the golfer who messes up the least.

"It seems like it's going to be a real shootout, but I don't think it's going to be a shootout with birdies," said Phil Mickelson. "I think it's going to be a shootout with pars."

"You might see a lot of bogeys by everybody," said Stewart Cink. "But it should be exciting -- that's almost guaranteed."

Cink and South African Retief Goosen shared the lead after Saturday's third round at 5-under-par 205.

Sergio Garcia, Mark Brooks and Rocco Mediate are a shot behind at 4-under. Mickelson is two back at 3-under. No one else is under par. Defending champion Tiger Woods managed a 1-under 69 Saturday and is virtually out of it, nine shots behind, at 4-over. (Television coverage is 1:30 to 8 p.m. on Ch. 2).

"Today was the day to score," said Mediate, who fired 3-under 67. "I'd probably take par on Sunday and not even play. They're going to put the pins in the corners, in very tough places. I don't think it's going to take 7-under to win."

So here are the main story lines entering the final 18 holes:

The player most overdue to win: Mickelson. The lefty has 18 career wins but is 0 for 35 in majors despite loads of chances. He is second on the money list this year but has won just one of the seven times he has been in prime contention on Sunday.

The player bidding for the biggest upset: Goosen, 32, is a virtual unknown even though he has been on the European Tour the past eight years. He has the least experience on a major stage. He has rarely played in the United States. And he had a severe case of the hooks on the back nine Saturday. Thanks to a short game that was shades of Gary Player, he managed 69.

The most phenomenal contender: Garcia, 21, is bidding to become the youngest Open champion since Bobby Jones won in 1923. He has been driving the ball great -- he's No. 1 on tour this year in driving -- and posted his first PGA Tour win a month ago at the Colonial. Garcia also would be the first European to win since Tony Jacklin in '70.

The player least likely to pull a Greg Norman: Brooks. He may not win, but he's a gunslinger who has a major win under his belt (the '96 PGA) and does not get intimidated. Brooks fired a bland 70. Bland is good at the Open. (Remember Andy North, Orville Moody, Scott Simpson, David Graham and Steve Jones.)

The best player with a low profile: Cink, a 28-year-old who was a blue-chip collegian and whose star is on the rise. He was 10th on the money list last year, has two PGA Tour wins and has found magic with his putter. He ranks 127th in putting this year but No. 1 this week. He also has a low-blood-pressure personality.

The journeyman: The 38-year-old Mediate has spent 14 years on tour and has four career wins. He's carefree and gregarious.

"I'm ecstatic," he said. "We're all going to have to be patient. This course tells you what you can have, and if you try to take more, the course gets very, very angry."

Lurking in the long-shot range are Paul Azinger and David Duval at even par, and Mike Weir and Jim Furyk at 1-over.

Mickelson provided the most excitement -- both good and bad -- in the third round.

He started out with birdies on three of the first four holes and was tied for the lead with Goosen at 4-under at the turn.

He blew a great chance to take the lead when he reached the green on the par-5 13th in two and then three-putted from 10 feet to settle for par. He made a great birdie on the 215-yard 14th, bogeyed from the bunker on the par-4 15th, settled for par despite a 359-yard drive on 16, birdied from 8 feet on 17 and bogeyed 18 after a wild hook landed in the greenside rough.

"I don't play well playing conservative," said Mickelson, who was celebrating his 31st birthday. "I know I'm going to make some bogeys. That's the way it is. I just have to stay patient.

"It's been an on-going saga for me to win my first major," Mickelson conceded. "So I'm not going to think about it yet."

Cink stared his round with a bogey on the first and a double bogey on the second. Then he birdied four straight holes, Nos. 4-7, along with the 13th and 15th.

"The Open suits my game," Cink said. "Most people think of me as a straight hitter and a percentage player."

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