JERSEY CITY, N.J. – Paul Goydos figured Liberty National at least would look good on television, with the Statue of Liberty and so many other New York landmarks serving as a spectacular backdrop at The Barclays.
Inside the ropes is starting to look pretty good to him, too.
Goydos put together three straight birdies early in the third round Saturday to build a lead that stood up until Steve Marino ran off three straight late on the cloudy afternoon to catch him for the lead. Both shot 3-under 68 and were at 9-under 204.
As for those beauty shots?
“I haven’t been watching,” Goydos said. “Thankfully, I’ve been playing well and I’ve been on TV.”
That might not make him the star attraction Sunday.
Goydos has only two victories in his 17 years on the PGA Tour. Marino made his debut as a PGA Tour rookie in 2007 at the last tournament Goydos won (Sony Open) and is still looking for his first victory.
The focus shifted behind them on a day of light rain that didn’t last long. Suddenly lurking is Tiger Woods, who suggested the players used “ladies’ tees” on Saturday even though he remained confounded by the putting surfaces. Woods was capable of making enough putts for a 67 that put him within five shots of the leaders.
Asked if he would be looking over his shoulder, the droll Goydos kept it all in perspective, as always.
“First of all, he’s going to be in front of me, not behind me,” he said. “So I’ll be looking straight ahead.”
The opening event of the PGA Tour Playoffs for the FedEx Cup has several possibilities:
Of the top six players on the leaderboard, only Steve Stricker, who is three shots behind, has won this year. Stricker won the inaugural playoff event two years ago at The Barclays. He kept bogeys off his card, yet only made birdies on the par 5s for his 68.
Marino had two chances to win this year, losing a playoff at the Colonial and sharing the 36-hole lead with Tom Watson at the British Open. He might find out how that experience will help him at Liberty National.
“I felt like I was ready to win back then, too,” Marino said. “It just didn’t turn out that way. I just feel like I’m playing real well right now, and I’m going to do the best I can. I think if I play well, I’ll have a good chance to win the golf tournament.”
Two shots out of the lead were Fredrik Jacobson (72), the Swede with moving parts in his swing, who is winless in his six years on the PGA Tour; and 24-year-old Webb Simpson, who overcame a triple bogey to shoot 72 and give himself a chance to become the first rookie to win on tour this year.
And then there was Woods, surprised to see the tees moved so far forward that it was 355 yards shorter than the card.
“They are playing the ladies’ tees most of the day,” Woods said.
He was concerned because he didn’t take advantage of the lack of length, particularly on the par-5 13th, with tees moved up 54 yards to make it play only 509 yards. Woods had to hit 3-wood to avoid going into a lake that he couldn’t reach before. Trying to hit a soft 3-iron from a downhill lie, he caught it fat and went into the water.
Woods followed with a 5-iron to 7 feet for a remarkable save, and he holed a 12-foot par putt on the final hole that brightened his day.
“If the guys get going coming in, they can kind of run away with it,” Woods said. “But the par on 18 at least kept me within reach – so far.”
He’s still there – barely.
Woods won Bay Hill with a five-shot rally Sunday, matching his PGA Tour best for comebacks. He won the Memorial from four shots behind. Working in his favor is that only three players ahead of him – Goydos, Stricker and Heath Slocum – have won on tour.
Woods, however, has company. After getting up-and-down from 190 yards for par on the 13th, and making a 12-foot par putt on his final hole, he was at 4-under 209 along with Padraig Harrington and Zach Johnson.
Liberty National, described throughout the week as long and hard, received a new identity in the third round.
The tees were moved forward so far that the course was only 7,064 yards. The two biggest changes presented the biggest problems for Woods as he tried to get closer to the leaders – the 13th and 18th holes, where he scrambled for pars.
And just his luck, the only players who made a move on the back nine were the guys trying to catch Goydos.
Marino did just that. He ran off three straight birdies starting with the par-3 14th, hitting his tee shot to 2 feet of the front pin. Then came an approach to 10 feet on the 15th, and a wedge to 6 feet on the 16th.
He is not concerned with who’s behind him – Woods’ name was mentioned – and neither is Goydos.
The greater mystery is how the PGA Tour will set up the golf course. The tees have been moved around quite a bit this week, and with rain in the forecast, this was as short as it has played. That likely helped Goydos, among the shortest hitters.
“You have to be careful to take what this golf course gives you each day,” Goydos said. “And the way they have kind of moved the tees around on different holes, we are going to have take that as it comes tomorrow. I don’t know what to expect tomorrow. We may play the tips for all I know. That would change everything, play the tips. Wouldn’t need irons.”