Leading Memorial, Watson looks to repeat round

Bubba Watson during Saturday's third round of the PGA Tour's 2014 Memorial Tournament at Muirfield Village in Dublin, Ohio.
Bubba Watson during Saturday's third round of the PGA Tour's 2014 Memorial Tournament at Muirfield Village in Dublin, Ohio. ( Getty Images )

Saturday, May 31, 2014

DUBLIN, Ohio – Big day for lefthanders at Muirfield Village. Two of the storylines, you might say, were better than the other.

Hall of Famer Phil Mickelson dealt with the aftermath of the developing news story about a federal investigation into potential insider trading. PGA Tour sophomore Scott Langley shot 67 and moved into second place in the Memorial Tournament. And two-time Masters champion Bubba Watson shot an outgoing 32 en route to seizing a one-stroke advantage through 54 holes.

Watson birdied five of the first seven holes Saturday in overtaking third-round leader Paul Casey and staying ahead the rest of the day – never mind a pair of bogeys on his last eight holes.

“I would like the same score (69) tomorrow and let the boys beat me if they can,” said Watson.

His previous best finish here is a tie for 23rd. He attributes his good performance this week to maturity and thinking his way around the golf course better.

• See Sunday's complete final-round tee times and pairings.

Scheduling is another factor. This is Watson’s ninth PGA Tour start of 2014. He has cut back his schedule and found that he’s fresher when getting to tournaments. That method, of course, has worked for the likes of Jack Nicklaus, Tiger Woods and, in the last couple of years, Adam Scott.

Watson understands the value of less being more.

“The more rest I have, the more I can get to a tournament and be excited about it,” Watson said. “I’m full of energy and ready to go. My emotions aren’t as up and down as much as when I play a long stretch.”

Watson will need energy Sunday because he is being chased by some strong players besides Langley. World No. 4 Hideki Matsuyama, who excelled at the Presidents Cup last fall here, is two strokes behind. No. 1 Adam Scott, fresh off victory at the Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial, stands two back. Among those tied for fifth, four behind, are 2011 Masters winner Charl Schwartzel, 20-year-old phenomenon Jordan Spieth and three-time Ryder Cupper Casey.

Watson is seeking his third Tour victory of 2014. He won the Northern Trust Open at Riviera before taking his second Masters in three years. He also has two seconds. Add it all up and you have the Player of the Year favorite – albeit a very early one, what with three major championships left.

When Watson is on, he makes golf look easy. That was the case on the front nine when he surged ahead. He birdied the second from 18 feet, but the four others were from short range – 6 feet at the third, 8 feet at the sixth and two-putt birdies on Nos. 5 and 7, par 5s. The latter came after a drive that measured 354 yards.

The self-taught bomber hit 14 greens in regulation for the day and walked off ahead and happy despite a closing bogey.

Birdie or bogey, win or lose, smile or frown, it’s hard to divert your eyes from Bubba Golf.