The fog delay didn’t dampen the scoring prowess of the PGA Tour’s best at Quail Hollow in Saturday’s third round. With J.B. Holmes recording the tournament’s first-ever double-eagle and Rory Sabbatini adding the 16th hole’s first eagle, balls were flying in from everywhere.
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WHO IS THIS GUY? – Prior to this year, Jonathan Byrd had played in seven Wells Fargo Championships and earned a whopping $212,875 – all of that due to a tie for fifth in 2009. The other six appearances Byrd missed the cut.
It’s been so bad for Byrd at Quail Hollow that the 2011 Hyundai Tournament of Champions winner had recorded only one round in the 60s out of 16 rounds, a 66 in the final round in 2009.
All that’s changed this year. Byrd followed up an opening 66 with a nifty 68 and then made the big move on Saturday with a 5-under, 67 to go from a two-shot deficit to a one-shot lead over Pat Perez.
“They said the seven out of nine birdies, nine‑hole stretch, in the interview, and my response was, ‘Wow, I did that?’” Byrd said Saturday after his round. “I didn’t really realize it was going that good there for a while.”
Playing with Phil Mickelson, Byrd wasn’t very comfortable to start, making a bogey on the first hole. It took until the par-5 seventh hole before Byrd got relaxed and started his stretch of birdies.
“I just had a hard time settling down,” Byrd said. “And then made some good swings kind of middle-late of the front nine, and that kind of settled me down.” he said. “I kind of just relaxed and started enjoying it a little more. And then I just was real calm on the back nine, just kind of taking each hole in stride and just trying to react and be athletic out there.”
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LONG SHOT – Given that the hole is 563 yards and he routinely delivers drives over 300 yards, it’s no surprise that J.B. Holmes reached the green in two swings at the par-5 15th.
But to actually have the ball land in the hole?
Holmes laughed and wasn’t to suggest he planned it that way. After all, it’s the first albatross he’s ever made – not to mention the first that’s been made in the nine-year history of this tournament. And while he ranked third in eagles last year on Tour, he’s only made one this year, so it’s not like Holmes has had the long game going.
Holmes hit his tee shot 344 yards and then pumped home a 5-iron from 213 yards – “It was uphill, playing 224,” he said.
Making it sweeter is the fact Holmes birdied 16 and made par at 17 after having double-bogeyed the hole each of the first two days. When he got it up-and-down to save par at 18, Holmes had shot 65 to get to 9 under, moving well up the leaderboard.
“Those are a lot harder to get than hole-in-ones,” Holmes said of the albatross. “It was really fun and came at a good part of the round, too.”
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MORE WEATHER – For the second time this year, weather caused a delay at Quail Hollow. The first delay came on Friday when thunderstorms dropped heavy rains that caused a 1 hour, 21 minute delay in the middle of the round.
On Saturday morning fog greeted the players and caused a delay of an hour and a half, again causing the round to finish after 7 p.m.
Weather has been an issue at Wells Fargo in the past. In 2009, an afternoon thunderstorm forced a delay of 1 hour, 12 minutes due to a dangerous situation in Saturday’s third round.
In 2007, during Saturday’s third round lighting again was an issue, delaying the start by 2 hours.
Sunday’s final round in 2006 had many stops and starts due to lighting and rain before Jim Furyk won in a playoff over Trevor Immelman.
Lastly, weather issues forced a 32 -minute delay in 2003, also marring the final round.
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IF IT’S SATURDAY AT QUAIL HOLLOW. . . – It must be time for Bubba Watson and Rickie Fowler, those whacky games-loving friends, to be paired together. “It’s our one-year anniversary,” Watson said to Fowler after they had finished their third rounds.
The first time the friends had ever played together in a tournament was Round 3 of last year’s tournament at Quail Hollow.
On that day, Fowler had the edge, 71-74, and he repeated that act this time around. With five birdies on his last 10 holes, Fowler shot 68 to push to his total to 8 under, while Watson struggled to a 73 and fell to 3 under.
Still, they combined to give the folks plenty to cheer about, and that’s important. “We had a good following, good chemistry, and we want to go out there and be energetic,” Fowler said. “We certainly don’t want to be boring.”
Never could they be accused of that, not with a combined 10 birdies, 7 bogeys, 1 double-bogey (Watson, at No. 8), and 1 eagle (Watson, driver, 8-foot putt at the 315-yard 14th hole).
“It’s different (than a practice round), but not a whole lot different,” Fowler said. “We’re not out there fooling around, but we’re not afraid to try stuff and we want to have fun.”
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SABO MAKES A MOVE – Rory Sabbatini has won once in 2011, when he captured the Honda Classic with the risk of a possible suspension hanging over him. Now Sabbatini moved on to the packed leaderboard again facing a possible suspension.
“Well, the putter got hot early today,” Sabbatini said of the key to his 6-under, 66. “Obviously as good as these greens are, if you’re putting well, it makes it awfully easy with the conditions of the golf course.”
Turning in 31 on the front nine, Sabbatini made consecutive bogeys on the 11th and 12th holes, but a birdie on the short 14th hole and an eagle on the par-4, 16th salvaged Sabbatini’s round.
“They’ve set it up very fairly today, and if you hit the shots in the right positions out there, you can definitely be aggressive,” Sabbatini said after his second-best round at Quail Hollow in his career.
The eagle on the 482-yard, 16th hole is the first in the nine year history of the tournament.