LA QUINTA, Calif. – Bubba Watson, Alex Prugh and Joe Ogilvie all had late chances Sunday to create a little separation atop the Bob Hope Classic field.
All three made mistakes better suited to their amateur playing partners, leaving the leaderboard even more crowded heading to the Monday finale.
Watson double-bogeyed the final hole in the fourth round, dropping him back into a tie with PGA Tour rookie Prugh at 23-under 265. Prugh missed a 3-foot putt to bogey his own final hole, while Ogilvie sat two strokes back after a double bogey on his 17th.
After knocking his second shot into the water on the par-4 18th, Watson finished with 3-under 69 to match Prugh (70) at 23-under 265. Bill Haas and Tim Clark were a stroke back after 66s, Ogilvie (68) followed at 21 under, and Mike Weir was in a group at 20 under after his fourth straight 67.
Watson, Prugh, Haas and Clark have never won on the PGA Tour, but all have a golden opportunity in a famed event featuring none of the tour’s top 35 players this year. Haas’ father, Jay, won the Hope Classic in 1988.
Watson was in position to take a solid lead into his chase for his first PGA Tour victory Monday in the event that was pushed back a day after rain washed out play Thursday in the four-course event. Instead, he dropped back with his disappointing finish on the Nicklaus Private course, allowing Prugh to sneak back atop the board.
“Tomorrow is going to be a tough day no matter if I had the lead, was tied for the lead, or one back, or five back,” Watson said. “Tomorrow is going to be a fun day. This is what we live for. The more chances I get to win, maybe I’ll get one to luckily fall in and win one.”
All but a handful of amateurs and celebrities stuck around to play the fourth rounds Sunday – and second-round leader Watson surged back ahead of Prugh with six birdies in a round that was steady all the way until the 18th hole.
Prugh, the 25-year-old former University of Washington star making his third PGA Tour start, missed an easy putt to bogey his final hole on the SilverRock course, finishing another self-described unremarkable round.
“The way things were going the first three days, where the scores were going, I definitely didn’t think 2 under would keep me in it,” Prugh said.
Ogilvie appeared the angriest at himself after he double-bogeyed the 17th at La Quinta. Ogilvie, whose only PGA Tour victory came in Milwaukee in 2007, paid the price for guessing at a yardage distance.
“My caddie was about 30 yards off,” said Ogilvie, who hadn’t made a bogey since early in the second round. “I had uncertainty on the tee, and it’s a mistake to hit driver when you’re not confident standing there. You can’t have double bogeys and win the Hope.”
Watson held a lead going into the final round twice before, but failed to win the 2007 Houston Open and 2008 Arnold Palmer Invitational.
The cut claimed several of the tournament’s bigger names, including Justin Leonard, Rocco Mediate, David Duval, Parnevik, Chad Campbell and highly touted 21-year-old rookie Rickie Fowler, whose first two tournaments of 2010 have been nothing special. Fowler missed the cut last week in Hawaii, and he didn’t crack 70 in his four rounds in the Palm Springs desert.
The Hope Classic had its second straight day of postcard-perfect Palm Springs scoring weather, with no real breeze and ideal temperatures. The beautiful conditions even brought out a family of eight bighorn sheep, which moseyed out of the craggy cliffs and onto the 16th hole on the Palmer course to chew on some grass.
The sheep ambled back up into the rocks before the group containing Jesper Parnevik, long-hitting former Jets quarterback Vinny Testaverde and “Burn Notice” actor Jeffrey Donovan reached the hole.