Saturday Notebook: Part-time Stricker hangs in
By T.J. Auclair, Stan Awtrey and The PGA of America
ROCHESTER, N.Y. – He might be in the twilight of his career, but Steve Stricker believes he can still win a major championship.
Stricker has intentionally cut down his schedule this year in order to spend more time at home. He even skipped the Open Championship to celebrate his wedding anniversary. Yet when the final round of the PGA Championship begins, Stricker will start just four shots off the lead after shooting a third-round 70.
“There’s a lot of great players up there on top,” he said. “It’s going to be a lot of fun. We have got 18 holes, so there is a lot that can happen in that stretch of golf. Just have to be patient and go out there and hopefully get off to a good start and get in the mix real early.”
Stricker’s best showing at a major was at the 1998 PGA Championship, when he was runner-up to Vijay Singh at Sahalee.
Stricker’s best chance at the PGA Championship recently might have been in 2011, when he shot a 63 in the first round at the Atlanta Athletic Club. But he wasn’t able to build on that and wound up tied for 12th. Stricker tied for seventh at the 2012 PGA Championship, despite a first-round 74 that started him in 91st place.
“Tomorrow hopefully everything goes well and I have a chance coming down the back nine,” he said.
SCOTT NOT READY TO CONCEDE: Most players see the 16th hole at Oak Hill as a breather before the two difficult finishing holes. But it ended up punching Adam Scott in the gut on Saturday and taking his momentum away.
Scott had a double bogey at the 16th and wound up with a 2-over 72 on Saturday, leaving him four shots off the lead.
At No. 17, Scott hit his tee shot in the rough and took four shots to get to the green, where he needed two putts for the 6. He recovered nicely to make a par from the rough on No. 17 and parred the closing hole.
“I was grinding hard,” he said. “Unfortunately I bit off more than I could chew at 16 and made a bad mental error. It wasn’t really going my way out there much today. I was grinding all day to be honest.”
Despite the setback, Scott wasn’t ready to concede his chances.
“(Phil) Mickelson ended up winning the Open quite easily being four back,” Scott said. “Anything can happen in a major. If I get off to a good start, I feel like my game is in good enough shape where I can carry that through and shoot a number.”
GOING BACKWARDS: Matt Kuchar and Justin Rose threw their motors in reverse and went the wrong way on Saturday.
Kuchar began the day within two shots of the lead and finished it eight shots behind after a third-round 76. Rose started the day three shots behind and finished it 10 behind after shooting 77. It wasn’t pretty for either player.
Kuchar actually began his Saturday round with a birdie before things began to go wrong. He had a double bogey and three bogeys on his front nine and tacked on two more bogeys on the back night. In each instance, the misfires came about after he found the rough with either his driver or second shot.
Rose imploded by playing holes No. 2-7 in 7 over par and made the turn in 42. He missed seven greens in regulation and scrambled to save par only one time.
PADDY'S PRACTICE: Padraig Harrington missed the cut, but that didn’t prevent him from returning on Saturday to use the practice facilities. The three-time major winner used the range and practice green.
HERE'S YOUR PICK: Placing an indelible mark on a major championship for the first time ever, more than 92,000 votes were cast on PGA.com, Facebook and Twitter over the past 19 days in the “PGA Championship Pick the Hole Location Challenge Hosted by Jack Nicklaus.”
The fans selected “Hole Location C” from among the four options for the official location of the 15th hole at Oak Hill during Sunday’s final round.
As a result, the pin on No. 15 will be placed 25 yards from the front of the green -- and just 4 yards from both the right side of the green and the lake that borders the right edge of the green. The selection by the fans means that the water hazard will almost certainly come into play, setting up a dramatic, risk-reward decision for the world’s best players on the final par 3 of the 95th PGA Championship.
During Sunday’s final-round coverage on TNT and CBS, fans will be able to see the winning hole position live.
ANOTHER TOUGH ONE FOR TIGER: One week ago, Tiger Woods was blowing the field away at Firestone in the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational. This week at the PGA Championship, the 14-time major champion just can't seem to get anything going.
Shaky off the tee and missing a lot of putts certainly aren't the ingredients for winning majors. Woods knows that, but couldn't avoid it in the third round where he shot a 3-over 73. Through 54 holes, the world No. 1 is at 4 over par and will likely need a career round and a lot of help from those in front of him to have any chance at all on Sunday.
"It was hard for me," Woods said. "I didn't play very well today. I didn't hit it very good, didn't make anything, kept blocking every putt. So it was a tough day. I didn't start off very good and I didn't finish very good. So the bookends weren't very good and in the middle part I was grinding just to kind of hang in there around par."
BOUNCE BACK: Lee Westwood had a bad taste in his mouth when he left Oak Hill on Friday following a second round of 3-over 73.
Scoring-wise, Oak Hill was there for the taking because of the rain that made greens more like a dartboard. Westwood was going along just fine until he reached the par-4 eighth hole – his 17th of the day. He made a messy double bogey and followed it up with a bogey on No. 9.
On Saturday, however, the Englishman bounced back in a big way. Thanks to a 2-under 68, Westwood moved to 3 under for the tournament and will have a chance to make a run at his first major championship on Sunday.
“The game has been great all week other than a poor finish yesterday, which you can't really afford to do in major championships, give shots away like that,” he said. “My game is a strong game, getting better every day. I'm pleased with the work I'm doing with Sean [Foley] and feel like I'm getting more control on the golf ball. And the work I'm doing on the greens as well, I feel like I'm putting a good roll on it.”
MOVING UP: One of the better rounds on Saturday was a 4-under 66 by Kevin Streelman – bettered only by Dustin Johnson’s 5-under 65.
The 66 by Streelman pulled him to 2 under for the tournament. After the round, he admitted that picking up his first win on the PGA Tour earlier this season at the Tampa Bay Championship has gone a long way in helping his confidence.
“It was huge,” Streelman explained. “It was my sixth year out here and I felt it was time. I felt comfortable in that situation. I told a lot of people that I had been in that situation enough times and not come through that I was just going to go out there and give it my all. If I didn't come through again, it wouldn't be that big a deal. I went out there free swinging and hit a lot of great shots, was able to bring it home.”
Johnson made six birdies and shot 5-under-par 65 to leap 51 places. Twelve shots out of the lead at the start of the day, Johnson is now seven strokes back and tied for ninth, at 2 under par.
“I felt like I played a lot better than my score was for the first couple of days,” said Johnson, who shot 72-71 over the first two rounds. “Today I hit it really well. I rolled the putter really well and just gave myself a lot of opportunities to make birdie. I drove it well, drove it in the fairway, and made some good putts.”
GOING THE OTHER WAY: While Johnson was bypassing many in the field, Hunter Mahan took the biggest tumble. Starting his round at 2 under par, Mahan had two double bogeys and six bogeys to shoot 78. He fell 48 spots and is tied for 63rd place, at 6 over par.
FURYK UP ONE, WITH ONE TO GO: A round that began with the leader at 9 under par ended with a new man at the top but the same leading score. Jim Furyk made a 15-foot putt for par on the final hole to shoot 2-under-par 68 and take a one-stroke lead into the final round. Furyk, the 2003 U.S. Open champion, leads by a single stroke over second-round leader Jason Dufner, who shot 71 today and is at 8 under par.
Henrik Stenson and Jonas Blixt, each trying to become the first male from Sweden to win a major golf championship, are at 7 under and 6 under, respectively.
ONLY OTHER TIME IN THE LEAD: Only once before has Furyk been at the top of the leaderboard after a PGA Championship round. In the opening round of the 2002 PGA Championship at Hazeltine National Golf Club, Furyk shot 68 to share the lead with Fred Funk. Furyk finished tied for ninth place in that Championship.
WHEN IN THE LEAD AFTER THREE ROUNDS: In the 55 previous PGA Championships played under the stroke-play format, a player who led or shared the lead after three rounds has gone on to win the Championship 31 times. Of those 31, six times the eventual Champion shared the lead after 54 holes.
In the past five PGA Championships, only Rory McIlroy (in 2012) went on to win after either leading alone or sharing the lead after three rounds.
TEE TIMES SET FOR SUNDAY: The first tee time tomorrow is 8:25 a.m., with the final twosome of Jim Furyk and Jason Dufner teeing off on No. 1 at 2:55 p.m.
DUFNER SOLID ON APPROACH: Jason Dufner has hit 43 of 54 Greens in Regulation over the three rounds, a 79.63 percentage, which ties him for first in that category.
TAKING OAK HILL HOME: When Jason Dufner leaves Rochester, he will be taking a piece of Oak Hill back home. Dufner, who admits he is a bit of a golf historian, will be traveling with a handful of acorns he and his wife, Amanda, from the grounds at Oak Hill. With a little help, Dufner is hoping that the acorns will mature into oak trees on his land in Auburn, Ala.
McILROY IN DEFENSE MODE: For the second consecutive day, Rory McIlroy saved his best for the end of the round, which means the defending PGA Champion is in the hunt with one round to go.
On Friday, McIlroy birdied Nos. 7 and 8 (his 16th and 17th of the round) for a 1-over-par 71. Then Saturday, he birdied No. 17 and chipped in for another birdie at 18, for a 3-under 67.
McIlroy is tied for seventh at 3 under par for the Championship. He needed just 25 putts, the fewest of any round for him.
NOT PHIL’S DAY: The 78 that Phil Mickelson shot ties his highest single-round score in the PGA Championship. He also shot 78 in the third rounds of both the 2002 PGA Championship at Hazeltine National and in 1998 at Sahalee.
TIGER 0 FOR 7: Including the 2003 PGA Championship, Tiger Woods has not broken par in any PGA Championship round at Oak Hill. The even-par 70 that he shot on Friday is his best score at Oak Hill.
I’VE SEEN YOU BEFORE: Four-time PGA Champion Woods and 2010 PGA Champion Keegan Bradley were in the same grouping in the first two rounds and they were paired together Saturday after each finished 36 holes at 1 over par. While Woods shot 73 and is 4 over par, Bradley was one shot better. His 72 puts Bradley at 3 over par and tied for 38th place.
McILROY TOPS AMONG PGA CHAMPIONS: Seven PGA Champions made the 36-hole cut, and after 54 holes, Rory McIlroy is the best of the bunch. By shooting 3-under-par 67, the defending PGA Champion is tied for seventh place, at 3 under par for the Championship. David Toms (2001) is the only other PGA Champion under par – his 69 has Toms tied for 12th place, at 1 under par.
The status of the other five PGA Champions in the field who made the 36-hole cut:
Keegan Bradley, 3 over par for the Championship, T-38
Martin Kaymer, 4 over par for the Championship, T-48
Tiger Woods, 4 over par for the Championship, T-48
Vijay Singh, 5 over par for the Championship, T-52
Phil Mickelson, 10 over par for the Championship, 74th
TOUGHEST, EASIEST HOLES: As was the case in each of the first two rounds, the par-4 17th continued to be the most difficult hole on the course. On Saturday, the par-5 13th played as the easiest hole on the course.
HARDEST HOLES TODAY:
No. 17, par-4: 4.427 scoring average, 30 bogeys, 3 double bogeys, 1 score worse than double bogey, 7 birdies
No. 7, par-4: 4.373 scoring average, 22 bogeys, 5 double bogeys, 1 score worse than double bogey, 7 birdies
No. 18, par-4: 4.293 scoring average, 22 bogeys, 4 double bogeys, 8 birdies
EASIEST HOLES TODAY:
No. 14, par-4: 3.733 scoring average, 29 birdies, 5 bogeys, 2 double bogeys
No. 4, par-5: 4.853 scoring average, 1 eagle, 18 birdies, 7 bogeys, 1 double bogey
No. 13, par-5: 4.933 scoring average, 17 birdies, 12 bogeys, 0 double bogeys, 0 score worse than double bogey
HORAK HAS UNFORGETTABLE STROLL: Rob Horak got to experience the thrill of playing in a major championship for the first time on Saturday, and he didn't even have to qualify.
A PGA teaching professional at Ravenwood Golf Club in Victor, N.Y., Horak has been putting in countless hours of work at Oak Hill this week alongside more than 100 of his fellow Western New York PGA Professionals, who assist with various operational aspects of hosting a major championship in their PGA Section. But when the Section asked him if he would serve as a “marker” for PGA Tour Professional Matt Jones, who was playing as a single at 8:25 a.m., and needed someone to play with him and keep his scorecard, Horak was happy to oblige.
"It was a dream come true for me today, said Horak, 52. “You always dream of playing in a major on the weekend and playing well. But I had the best of both worlds, because my score didn't have to count.”
Horak, a five-time Western New York PGA Section Champion and two-time Western New York PGA Player of the Year, and Jones, who finished in a tie for second at The Greenbrier Classic in July, made their way around Oak Hill Country Club in just over three hours.
“I was more worried about staying out of his way and making him feel comfortable," said Horak. “He was awesome to play with and we had a great conversation. I couldn't have asked for a better pairing.
“This is more fun than anything I’ve ever done, but it’s also more nerve-wracking than anything I’ve ever done.”
Horak was followed by a small group of friends and family and was recognized by many more Western New Yorkers throughout his round.
"It was great to have my family and some close friends walk with me today,” he said. “But ultimately not a lot of people knew I was doing this, so as I was going along people I knew were shouting out from the gallery.”
Even after walking 18 holes this morning, Horak’s day is not done.
“I’ve got to run the range this afternoon,” said Horak. “No rest for the wicked.”
And there is more good news for Horak – he will be the marker on Sunday, serving in that capacity for Gary Woodland.
100 MAJOR CHAMPIONSHIPS FOR DAN AND FRED: Congratulations to KMOX’s Dan Reardon and Sports Illustrated’s Fred Vuich as they celebrate coverage of their 100th major golf championship in Rochester this week. At an impromptu news conference, The PGA of America presented them with a limited-edition PGA Championship print signed by artist Steve Lotus and celebratory cake, which was enjoyed by many of Dan and Fred’s golf industry friends and peers. Immediately after the news conference, the two were escorted to the Oak Hill members’ room, where their application for the Hill of Fame was reviewed … and then quickly denied.
95th PGA CHAMPIONSHIP … BY THE NUMBERS:
1: Eagle made in the third round (Brooks Koepka, on the par-5 fourth hole; Koepka hit a 255-yard hybrid to within 20 feet of the hole and sunk the sliding, left-to-right downhill putt)
4: 54-hole leaders in the last 19 major championships who have gone on to win
19: Consecutive cuts made by Matt Kuchar this year on the PGA Tour (that is the best figure of anyone in the field this week)
20: Rounds at even or under par Saturday
55: Rounds over par Saturday
20: Players under par after 54 holes
27: Players under par after 36 holes
35: Players under par after 18 holes
31: Consecutive holes played by Jason Dufner without a score worse than par, before he made double bogey on the fifth hole Saturday
70: Score shot each round by Marc Leishman
71: Score shot by both Josh Teater and Brendon De Jong in each of the first three rounds