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Heavy hitters dueling at top of leaderboard

Scott McCarron, Tim Petrovic set up a Sunday showdown at the 2018 Senior PGA Championship

BENTON HARBOR, Mich. – Sunday at a major is for dreams. And a decision.

There’s the leaderboard of the KitchenAid Senior PGA Championship. Who gets the trophy? The one Jack Nicklaus marveled about as being so big to take home? And the answered wish with it?

Maybe Scott McCarron. Surely, he’s the man to beat, after going 66-68-66 the first three rounds. Yeah, that’s taking things by the throat. Except . . . there’s another guy who’s been doing the same thing. Tim Petrovic is right there with him at 13-under par, the product of 66-69-65. You couldn’t jam a tee between them.

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Together, they have steamrolled the front nine at Harbor Shores, combining for 18 birdies and two bogeys in the first three rounds. They have rarely blinked, not in three days.

McCarron has hit 24 consecutive fairways, and 36 of 39. “Thanks for letting me know,” he said. “Now, I’ll probably miss the first one tomorrow.”

Petrovic has been just as consistent, at 36 of 39, and 44 of 54 greens. “We’ll have fun tomorrow, make a lot of birdies, see what happens,” he said.

 

RELATED: What we learned Saturday at Harbor Shores

History suggests they’re in the best place to be. The other three Senior PGA Championships at Harbor Shores were all won by third round leaders or co-leaders.

The two men will be in the same pairing Sunday, but their paths are different.

Listen to McCarron, the old UCLA Bruin who had to keep his career going through elbow surgery and a thumb spur. He knows about Sundays. He’s already won six times on the PGA Tour Champions, including a major at the 2017 Constellation Senior Players Championship. 

“It’s different, kind of gets your adrenaline going, you got to make sure you take a lot of deep breaths, control your emotions. This is a big deal. And have fun. To be able, at my age, at 52, to be able to play the sport you love for a living in front of people, I got to pinch myself. This is really a dream come true.”

Listen to Petrovic, the New Englander who came up through the mini-tour. He hasn’t won a tournament since the Zurich Classic in 2005.

“The memory’s there. The hardest thing to do is to not try (too hard). You’re out there, you want to win, you want to win. This week I’ve been really calm and really patient, and if I can maintain that tomorrow . . . it will help me coming down the stretch for sure.

“I imagine from talking to some of my friends, winning a major is pretty cool. Todd Hamilton’s a buddy of mine. I remember when he won the British Open, and it was like probably the coolest thing he’s ever done. It’s been a long time since I’ve won, but to come out here and play with these guys and to win a major would be really special. You look at the trophy, you look at the names on that trophy, it’s pretty special.”

MORE: 9 things to know heading into Sunday

Or maybe it will be the Englishman who once had to work as a van driver, gardener and fiberglass technician to pay for his amateur golf career. Paul Broadhurst did not have an easy start in this game, but ended up with a long stay on the PGA European Tour, and won the Senior Open Championship at Carnoustie in 2016.

He’s two shots back after a 64 Saturday.

“It means everything," he said of the opportunity. "That’s what you play the game for, to play on Sunday and have a chance of winning.  It makes you appreciate the good days, because it’s not all plain sailing, as they say. I’ve struggled as much as anyone over the years. But since I turned 50, it’s gone pretty well.

“You sometimes wonder when the next good tournament is going to come along, and then when you’re playing well, you think, what’s the problem, why have I been struggling? That’s golf unfortunately. No one’s ever beaten the game, and I doubt if anyone ever will.

Or maybe it’ll be the golfer trying to win his second major in eight days.

Miguel Angel Jimenez is lurking at four strokes back after a 65.  If he rallies and pulls this off, he’ll match what Bernhard Langer did last spring, going back-to-back in the Regions Tradition and Senior PGA. A double scoop of majors, not an easy thing to do. Jimenez was his usual frolicking self Saturday, while storming up the leaderboard. See his parody on No. 17, when he threw down his hat and club in a mock tantrum after a bunker shot came up an inch short?  All that was left were the sunglasses and the hair. Good times, always good times. He finished his 65, and signaled for a cigar.

Listen to him ponder his position. “I would like to be a little bit closer.” That’s it. No more. Hey, he had a television to find, to watch soccer. Never get in the way of Spaniard when Real Madrid is playing Liverpool.

Or maybe it could be someone from back in the pack. Take the man who led Saturday’s Torrid Threesome. Bob Estes shot a 65, while partners Michael Bradley had a 66 and Vijay Singh 68. That’s 14-under par for the day from one group. 

Estes birdied nine of the first 16 holes, and it was as if the momentum was passed around the three like a bag of potato chips.  “Hopefully, I pulled them along a little bit,” he said. He would have really sizzled the course had he not finished bogey-bogey, scaring a few geese along the Paw Paw River on No, 18. Still, his 65 pushed him up the leader board, five shots back.

“I’ve been telling people I’m close to playing the best I’ve ever played. I’m excited about playing a lot better than I have in a long time.”

Lots of players, lots of dreams, lots of curves in the road that led here. Men with enough years on them to understand what must be done, but still young enough to be thrilled at the chance of a trophy. Sunday at a major never gets old.

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