Long tee balls help Watson to spot alone at top
NORTON - Trying to keep track of how many players were in the lead at any given time in the
The drama unfolded at a dizzying pace. Three players started the day tied at 10 under par. Then the lead was held by one player, then four, back to one, swelled to six, dropped to five, and finished with one. In all, nine players held at least a share of the lead, turning the third round of the second PGA Tour playoff tournament into one big game of musical chairs.
When the music finally stopped at TPC Boston, Bubba Watson was sitting down after a 1-under 70 sent him to 11 under, worn out from a four-hour grind but thrilled to be alone at the top.
He won’t have any room to relax today. Five players are a shot behind at 10 under: Jason Day (67), Adam Scott (71), Jerry Kelly (68), Brendan Steele (67), and Chez Reavie (68). Five more players, including world No. 1 Luke Donald (68), are 9 under, with seven others sitting at 8 under.
Oh, yeah: Phil Mickelson had the day’s low score, an 8-under 63, to move from 11 shots back at the start of the round to just four behind, part of a six-player group at 7 under.
Watson leads at 11 under, but all told, there are 24 players at 7 under or better.
Can you say, logjam?
“It’s setting up for a great tournament, great finish, which is good,’’ said Day, who held the lead after the first three rounds last year before finishing in a tie for second. “The names are up there, and I think that’s good. No one knows what’s going to happen tomorrow.’’
With all the leaderboard changes, it’s hard to remember what happened yesterday. Watson, Scott, and Charl Schwartzel shared the lead, but Nick Watney used a birdie-eagle start to grab it. A bogey on No. 5 left Watney tied with Watson, Scott, and Brandt Snedeker at 10 under.
Then Watson, taking advantage of his length off the tee, took charge, making birdies on Nos. 2, 4, 7, and 10 to reach 13 under and build a two-shot lead. The birdies on the second and seventh gave Watson six birdies and two eagles on the first eight par-5 holes he played at TPC Boston. The under-par streak would end when he made par on No. 18, but at 10 under par, nobody has played those holes better.
Averaging 330.5 yards on his six measured drives so far, Watson leads the field in distance, which has allowed him to get aggressive with approach shots because he’s closer than everybody else and using higher-lofted clubs that he can control. For his second shots into the three par 5s yesterday, Watson hit pitching wedge on No. 2, 7-iron from 236 yards on No. 7 - “downwind, obviously,’’ he said - and 9-iron on No. 18.
“Obviously on a par 5, if you’re hitting shorter irons in, it’s easier to make a good score,’’ said Watson, whose bogeys on Nos. 11, 12, and 15 created the six-player tie for the lead, which he snapped with a birdie on 17.
The wind picked up as the day went on, and with the course getting firmer, scoring conditions became tougher. Of the eight players in the final four twosomes, only Kelly broke 70, on a day when the average was 69.71.
“I thought I’d be getting passed at 3 under,’’ said Kelly, who started three shots back, and ended just one after his 68. “I thought there would be a decent amount of guys going 5 [under], 6, 7. But that wind is not a consistent wind. It’s swirly.’’
Said Watson: “In the morning, yeah, the golf course is different. It firms up throughout the day. Winds picked up a little bit. It’s not really a go-low course when the wind is like this.’’
Those near the top are an eclectic blend of young and old(er), famous and obscure, US and international, exceptionally long hitters and those who hit it just really long. They’ve all won on tour, though: The top 11 names on the leaderboard have combined for 38 tour victories. Mickelson has 39 by himself.
With so much on the line - $1.4 million, a possible lead in the
You might be better off putting 24 names in a hat and picking one blindly to predict the winner, but Watson’s the one to catch. He’s taken a lead into the final round four times in his PGA Tour career, and won just once. That came May 1, at the Zurich Classic, his third victory in 11 months. He shot 69 in that final round, then beat Webb Simpson in a playoff. Simpson, like almost everybody else, is in close pursuit here, lurking two shots back.
“Everybody at 8 under, 7 under, if they go out and shoot a low number . . . ’’ Watson said. “Anybody has a chance. It just depends who’s got the hot putter or how bad the wind is. You just never know.’’
Michael Whitmer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.