Justin Rose asked himself some tough, honest questions last week after he blew a three-shot lead in the final round. He hopes to find the right answers in the AT&T National.
With some big par saves in the middle of his round and one last birdie toward the end, Rose shot a 3-under 67 on Saturday to build a four-shot lead over Carl Pettersson (65) and Charlie Wi (70) going into the final round at tough Aronimink Golf Club.
That’s one shot more than the lead he blew last week in the Travelers Championship, a bad day that Rose is determined not to turn into a bad memory.
“If you’re sitting at the top of the leaderboard, it seems like it’s yours to lose,” Rose said. “That’s why a golf tournament is 72 holes. The lead really doesn’t mean much until you close it out. I just know that tomorrow I have a great opportunity again, but I’m more excited about the opportunity of putting into play the lessons I’ve learned in Hartford than actually going out and winning the golf tournament.”
Tiger Woods only gets into contention in the majors these days. In his final tournament before the British Open, he again is out of the mix on Sunday. Woods recovered from an atrocious start with an even-par 70, putting him 13 shots behind.
This will be his seventh tournament without a victory on the PGA Tour, his longest drought since he went 16 straight tournaments in 2004 when he was going through a swing change. The only good news for the tournament is that the massive crowd that followed him around in the morning did not leave Aronimink.
They still were treated to some good golf.
It was the sixth time in his last eight rounds that Rose was atop the leaderboard. Now he gets to try something new. Despite his great run over the last month, Rose has never won a PGA Tour event when leading after 54 holes.
The test figures to come as much from Aronimink as the players behind him.
“It’s tougher to go low around here,” said Rose, one of only two players to have broken par all three rounds. “It’s easier to go higher. It’s an interesting test. But it suits good golf. It’s tough to find the birdies. I’ve just got to keep playing solid.”
Rose was at 10-under 200, the only player to reach double digits under par this week on one of the toughest PGA Tour tracks this year.
Wi was one shot behind until taking four shots from just inside 25 feet on the 14th, the last three putts from 6 feet.
“This is course is not like last week where you have to make tons of birdies,” Wi said. “You could be 1 or 2 over, or you could be 2 or 3 under. That changes the momentum, so we’ll see how it goes tomorrow. I know 1 or 2 under sounds really easy, but this golf course is definitely not easy.”
Rose certainly is not expecting anything to be easy, even with a four-shot lead. He found that out the hard way in Hartford, closing with a 75 in a final round when the rest of the field averaged about 69.
But the 29-year-old Englishman isn’t thinking about Hartford. He’s not even thinking about the Memorial last month, when he rallied from four shots behind to win his first PGA Tour title.
“I didn’t go into Hartford thinking, ‘You just won, keep it going.’ And I didn’t come into this week thinking, ‘You’ve just blown a win.’ I’m just coming into each week seeing it as a new challenge,” Rose said.
Pettersson started 90 minutes earlier and made only one mistake, a bogey on the par-3 eighth, in his round of 65. He was joined by Wi, who saw firsthand how quickly everything can change at Aronomink.
Wi was one shot behind until Rose hit a 9-iron the right distance, the ball crawling up the slope to 4 feet for a birdie on the 13th.
Then came the troublesome 14th, a par 3 with the pin tucked in the right corner. Wi, playing in the group ahead of Rose, made double bogey. Rose was in worse shape, in nasty rough behind the green, and even as he tried to play safe away from the hole, he still went into deep rough on the other side. He chopped out to 4 feet and escaped with bogey.
“That was the only emotion I showed all day, with a fist pump,” Rose said, grinning. “And that was for bogey.”
He got that shot back with his second straight birdie on the par-3 17th.
Jeff Overton, who also has three straight rounds in the 60s, birdied the 18th hole for a 69 and was at 5-under 205. Ryan Moore (69) and Jason Day of Australia (72) were another shot behind.
Woods made Saturday morning feel like Sunday afternoon.
Having made the cut on the number, he teed off at 9 a.m. before thousands of fans who followed him around Aronimink and were treated to some stunning shots — with Woods, that can be anything these days.
He twice made bogey with a wedge in his hand from the middle of the fairway, including a shot he chunked so badly that it only went 59 yards without reaching the green. Woods also hit some lasers on the par 3s, nearly making an ace on the tough eighth hole, and hit his driver longer than he has all year.
All that matters is the score, however, and his 70 put him in a tie for 47th.
“I was trying to be patient, trying to pick my spots, and I just kept making mistake after mistake,” Woods said.