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5 things we learned at Quail Hollow on Saturday

5 things we learned at Quail Hollow on Saturday

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Jordan Spieth will not complete the career Grand Slam this weekend. The biggest story coming into the 99th PGA Championship at Quail Hollow Club was whether or not Spieth — winner of the Open Championship in July — would become just the sixth player in history, and the youngest, to complete the career Grand Slam.

At 3-over-par 216 after an even-par 71 in Round 3, the recently turned 24-year-old will begin Sunday's final round at 3-over, 10 back of leader Kevin Kisner.

His next chance to complete the career Grand Slam — unless something historically crazy happens on Sunday — will come next August in the 100th PGA Championship at Bellerive in St. Louis. 

Keep in mind, the largest deficit a major champion has overcome in the final round is 10 strokes. Paul Lawrie did that in the 1999 Open Championship at Carnoustie when Jean Van de Velde had that, ahem, historically crazy 72nd hole. 

RELATED: PGA Championship leaderboard | Photos from Round 3

"To not have a chance to win ... Obviously any week you don't have a chance to win, you've fallen short of where you would like to be," Spieth said. "Disappointing would have been going home after two days. I think I saw some highlights today. ... This is the start of the fourth quarter. I was at the U.S. Open Sunday, I was out of it, but I gathered a little something off that Sunday round that led to two wins and two tournaments after that including a major. Just one round like that can do that. That's what I'm looking to do here."

Spieth conceded that he believes the PGA Championship will be the toughest major for him going forward and not just because it would result in a career Slam.

"If we look historically back on my career, I think I will play this tournament worse than the other three majors just in the way that it's set up," Spieth said. I feel like my game truly suits the other three majors maybe more than a PGA Championship. But I believe we can play anywhere and can win anywhere. It's just a matter of having everything in sync at the right time."

It was a tough day for Omar Uresti … at least on the scorecard.

The 49-year-old Uresti — the first PGA club professional to make the cut at the PGA Championship since Brian Gaffney in 2015 at Whistling Straits — shot a 9-over 80 on Saturday. 

But, he also did so while playing alongside Rory McIlroy. 

The highlight of the week for Uresti — thus far — was his 1-under 70 on Friday to make the cut. But, pegging it with McIlroy had to be a close second.

Uresti was the playing partner of Tiger Woods way back in 1997 when Woods aced the famous par-3 16th at TPC Scottsdale. Uresti had hit it to 3 feet before Tiger’s hole-in-one.

A serious move can be made in a hurry on the back nine.

The back nine at Quail Hollow isn't typically synonymous with "making a run." Instead, all you hear about is the difficulty, especially on the dreaded Green Mile (holes 16, 17 and 18), regarded as arguably the most difficult closing stretch in golf.

On Saturday, Canada's Graham DeLaet proved that the back nine can be had. DeLaet had a five-hole stretch on the back beginning at the par-3 13th where he went 2-2-3-3-3. That's a birdie, two straight eagles, another birdie and a par. In other words, 6 under in five holes.

DeLaet parred the 18th hole for a 3-under 68.

DeLaet's first of the two eagles came at the drivable par-4 14th where he nearly knocked his tee shot in for an albatross. Instead, it hit the flagstick and got rejected.

"On 13, actually I left that ball hanging on the lip," DeLaet said. "It was an inch from the hole from making a one. Hit the hole on the next one, the par 4. That's where I turned to Jules and said, 'Man, I could have just gone 1, 1, but going 2, 2 is pretty good on those holes, too.'

"On 15, I hit a great tee shot, great three coming in there and nice putt right up the hill and left myself in a nice place there. At 16, I hit a good tee shot. I hit a really, really good iron shot that just got a little bit unlucky. Needed another couple paces on it and came back to 40 feet and when that putt went in, one of those things, you shake your head and it was pretty unreal.

"In all honesty, on 17, 18, two really good two putts to close the day, and I was happy about that to keep myself ... because I put myself in somewhat of a position, and I had two really difficult two-putts on 17 and 18 and was able to close those out."

Rory McIlroy is still in a bit of a funk.

The former world No. 1 and four-time major champion was a heavy favorite this week at Quail Hollow, having won here twice in the Wells Fargo Championship and recording six Top 10 finishes in seven starts in that event.

But nothing really came to fruition here. Saturday, McIlroy shot a 2-over 73 that put him at 4-over for the week.

McIlroy's last major win was the 2014 PGA Championship at Valhalla. He hasn't won on the PGA or European Tours since the 2016 PGA Championship. He's hoping that a solid final round on Sunday could sneak him into the Top 10 and perhaps give him a jolt heading into the PGA Tour's Playoffs for the FedExCup.

But to do that, he's going to need to be better off the tee than he's been all week.

"I didn't get off to the best of starts but that's the way it is," he said. "After playing practice rounds, I felt like there was a decent one out there. The way the conditions have been the last three days, I haven't seen a low score out there for me. I definitely haven't driven the ball well enough the last few days to give myself chances for birdies and build a score. So I just need to hit some more fairways tomorrow."

We’re in for a fascinating finish on Sunday.

Though DeLaet proved there are scores to be had on the back nine, you cannot overlook the Green Mile. 

On Saturday, just when it looked like Kevin Kisner was starting to run away from the field, he had his two-shot lead erased on the par-4 16th hole when he sent his approach shot into the water left of the green and walked off with a double-bogey 6. 

Suddenly, the tournament was wide open and he was tied for the lead with Chris Stroud — momentarily, as Stroud would bogey 17 — at 8-under with a hungry pack including Hideki Matsuyama, Justin Thomas, Louis Oosthuizen and Jason Day chasing. 

Also on Saturday, Rickie Fowler was in great shape at 5-under. And then he went bogey, double bogey, bogey on the final three holes to finish with a 2-over 73. He’s 1-under for the week.

Jon Rahm was 5-under through 14 holes in Round 3. He bogeyed the par-5 16th and then double-bogeyed both the par-4 16th and par-4 18th. Just like that, a great round turned into an even-par 71.

At Augusta National they say, “the tournament doesn’t begin until the back nine on Sunday.” At Quail Hollow we might be saying, “the tournament doesn’t begin until the Green Mile on Sunday.”
 

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