LEMONT, Ill. – Consider Saturday’s third round of the BMW Championship to be a serious case of good news, bad news for Sergio Garcia.
The good: He shared the low round of the day with Luke Donald, a 4-under 67 at the punishing Dubsdread course at Cog Hill.
But the bad: It was a bit deceiving because Garcia holed a bunker shot for birdie at the par-3 12th and holed out for eagle from about 60 feet at the par-5 15th.
“I would have liked to have hit the ball better,” Garcia said after hitting just six fairways and 10 greens.
The good: That eagle pitch at the 15th. Surely, that was positive news.
But the bad: The 3-wood from 278 yards that went wide right and well short one swing earlier? Well, someone or something had to be punished for the misfire, and what took the brunt of Garcia’s anger was the 3-wood. Yes, it remained in his bag, but Garcia conceded that it wasn’t in good shape, because he snapped it.
The good: Garcia pushed into a share of seventh place, eight off of Justin Rose’s lead.
But the bad: He came into the tournament 53rd in the FedEx Cup standings, right now is projected to be 37th, and that wouldn’t get him into next week’s Tour Championship.
Then again, Garcia said that might not be bad news.
“I’m close to empty,” he said, when asked if he had much left in the tank, and with a commitment to play in three European PGA Tour tournaments, the Spaniard conceded having next week off wouldn’t be the worse thing for him.
“I don’t really care,” Garcia said. “Whatever happens, happens. If I play well and I make it to Atlanta, great. (But) I don’t think it’s the ideal thing for me, the way I feel.”
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Beyond the legitimate concern for his health, given that Steve Stricker has noticed a lack of strength in his left arm, a couple of noteworthy streaks came to an end when he withdrew after 36 holes.
Stricker’s streak of consecutive tournaments “in the money” comes to a halt at 40, meaning Charl Schwartzel, with 18, now tops that list.
Also, Stricker had been the only player to have played in each and every round of the playoffs since they debuted in 2007. But when he didn’t answer the bell Saturday morning, that streak came to a halt at 74 rounds. Stricker and Hunter Mahan are the only players to have taken part in each of the 18 playoff tournaments, though that picture could change should Stricker not play in next week’s Tour Championship in Atlanta.
Stricker withdrew after rounds of 76-70 left him in a share of 59th place. He told The Associated Press: “I’ve lost some strength in my left arm and I had a hard time hanging onto the club. It just kept getting worse.”
Stricker came into the week eighth in the FedEx Cup standings and obviously won’t move into the top 5 and have a shot at the $10 million bonus.
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He had started the day tied for the lead with Rose, but by the time Mark Wilson left the 13th green, he had dropped three strokes to sit a whopping four behind.
Bad as that was, it would only get worse for Wilson, who practices a lot at Cog Hill when he’s at home in the Chicago area.
Wilson’s tee shot came to rest in a bunker at the par-3 14th, but it was within inches of Rose’s ball. It required Wilson to place a mark, but when he did so, he rested his club in the sand.
“It was inadvertent, but I touched,” Wilson said.
He got his bunker shot up-and-down for par, but Wilson played on thinking he’d made double bogey because of a two-shot penalty. It wasn’t until after he finished the 18th hole did he hear that officials had ruled in his favor. “There’s an exception to the rule,” Wilson said. “It was a nice bonus at the end.”
Wilson did not blame the incident for coming unglued at 15 (double bogey) and 16 (bogey).
“I was fooled by the wind at 15, and I pressed at 16,” Wilson said, after shooting 77 to fall to 5 under, tied for seventh but now eight back.
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There’s the race to win the $1.44 million prize at the BMW Championship. But as if that’s not enough, there’s also stiff competition to earn one of the 30 spots into next week’s Tour Championship. Then there’s arguably the most competitive battle of them all, nailing down the final three berths on the American Presidents Cup team.
Granting that the top seven are locks – Matt Kuchar, Stricker, Dustin Johnson, Phil Mickelson, Nick Watney, Webb Simpson and Bubba Watson – there’s great intrigue at Nos. 8-10. Coming into the week, those spots belonged to Hunter Mahan, Jim Furyk and David Toms, with Brandt Snedeker and Bill Haas sitting just outside.
But Haas has pushed to 8 under and shared third place, and if the tournament had ended Saturday, he would have vaulted back into the eighth spot. Jim Furyk (presently T-7, at 5 under) would be ninth and Hunter Mahan 10th by a mere $25,997.
With this being the last tournament to secure points, certainly there’s a great deal of pressure and players don’t deny that it’s tough to block out.
“It’s on the back of my mind. It’s weighing on me,” said Furyk, who has played in seven Ryder Cups and six President Cups without ever having been a captain’s pick. If he should fall below No. 10, would he think that he would deserve a captain’s pick for the first time in his career?
“I don’t want to worry about. Ultimately I want to play a good round of golf tomorrow and make sure I’m in the top 10 and not have to worry about it,” Furyk said. “If that’s not the case, I guess we could talk about it tomorrow.”
With American captain Fred Couples having already named Tiger Woods with one of his picks, there’s just one spot open and Haas didn’t sound confident that it would go his way. “It is what it is,” said Haas, whose father, Jay, will be one of Couples’ vice captains. “If (I don’t get picked), I’m OK with that. I’ll pull for the team.”
Toms has played beautifully at Cog Hill and is right in the thick of things, but seemingly Mahan has hurt his chances with rounds of 72-72 after an opening 69. He’s T-26 entering Sunday’s final round and can’t spare to fall much further.
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As for the International Team, Geoff Ogilvy and John Senden are making things interesting for captain Greg Norman.
Ogilvy solidified his spot on the team by shooting 68 to push into a tie for third, five back. Sitting in the 10th and final spot in the team standings, Ogilvy seems assured of maintaining one of the exempt spots.
Senden, meanwhile, shook off a rough start – bogeys on three of his first five holes – to shoot 70 and at 9 under he’s solo second, four behind Rose. Never mentioned in all the pre-tournament talk about who are the candidates for the final International Team picks (Ogilvy, Aaron Baddeley and Robert Allenby dominate such talk), Senden would secure an automatic berth if he were to win Sunday.
“I’ve just got to go and do what I do best, and that’s go play,” said Senden, whose only PGA Tour win came in 2006 about two hours from here, at the John Deere Classic.
Given that he owns a home adjacent to Royal Melbourne, site of the upcoming Presidents Cup, and he grew up nearby, Ogilvy has his sights set on a team berth.
“It’s a pretty special place,” Ogilvy said. “It would be a big deal to play the Presidents Cup there.”
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SHORT SHOTS: Defending champion Dustin Johnson has made a bogey or worse on a third of his holes – 18 in 54. He’s failed to break par at a place where a year ago he shot 68-70-68-69 to win at 9 under, yet the good news is, none of that figures to matter. Because he won the opening playoff event, The Barclays, Johnson is projected to sit in second place in the FEC standings and thus be in the running to win the $10 million bonus. … After missing the cut in the first two playoff events in the aftermath of his stunning PGA Championship win, Keegan Bradley has rebounded nicely. At 6 under, he’s in sixth place. … Luke Donald was 4 over for his first five holes Thursday. He’s 9 under since and enters the final round joint seventh, eight off the lead. … Rose is in line to become the first European to win the BMW Championship (for years known as the Western Open) since Harry Cooper in 1934.