The third round of the WGC-Cadillac Championship was predicated on scoring. With perfect weather conditions, you had to go low to move up.
• • •
NOT SO MONSTROUS: The Blue Monster played like the Blue Pussycat in Saturday’s third round, with Brendan Grace setting the tone with an 8-under 64 in the second group of the day. While he sat back and watched, the scoring continued on a day when the wind was down to a gentle breeze.
Thirteen players shot 5 under or better on Saturday, compared with Thursday’s first round when only Jason Dufner and Adam Scott were able to shoot better than 4 under (6-under 66s).
“I think that I double bogeyed the last (hole) a couple days coming in, and for me it was just hitting the fairway and hitting the green out there,” Grace said. “I gave (my caddie) a high-five down the last when I did manage to hit the green,” Grace said of the final hole, which had given him trouble during the first two days. “It was a great two-putt to finish it off. A good score.”
The odd part of all of it was that the first-round scoring average was 72.662, the second round 69.919, but the third round was 70.110, in weather conditions that were the most benign.
• • •
NOT EVERYONE WENT LOW: While low scoring was plentiful on Saturday, it didn’t mean that low scores were guaranteed. Ben Crane recorded seven birdies and needed a chip-in on the 18th hole to shot a 1-over 73.
Crane recorded only four pars, with a double bogey and six bogeys to go with the seven birdies.
Lee Westwood had a stretch of seven birdies in eight holes, from the eighth to the 15th. If he had converted on a 6-footer for birdie on the 13th, he would have had eight consecutive birdies. But double bogeys at the third and 17th holes made a good round just ordinary.
John Senden shot a 4-under 68, but as Westwood did earlier, the Australian made eight birdies. But two bogeys and a double on the 18th hole made a good round mediocre.
• • •
THE DIFFICULT 18TH HOLE: As Grace mentioned, the difficulties of the 18th hole continued for many, even with the ideal scoring conditions.
In the first two rounds, the 18th yielded only seven birdies and was ranked the most difficult hole both days.
In Saturday’s third round, the birdie count went to six, but the 467-yard par-4 still was the hardest hole, with a stroke average of 4.397 that included 19 bogeys and eight double bogeys.
• • •
UNFAMILIAR GROUND: Johnson Wagner has played in one World Golf Championship event in his career, the 2008 WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, where he finished T-71. After a third-round 67, Wagner is looking at his first top 10 ever in a big event (majors, The Players Championship, WGCs or FedEx Cup Playoff events) on Tour.
With a solid West Coast Swing that included a win at the Sony Open and three consecutive top 10s, Wagner cooled off, with his best finish a T-24 at the Northern Trust Open. When he came to Florida, Wagner missed his first cut, at The Honda Classic, but has rebounded nicely this week with 70-69-67.
With a good finish this week, Wagner surely will move up from his ninth-place position on the Ryder Cup points list.
• • •
IT’S A DATE: You expect a pairings feast in the first two rounds of a WGC event, but the weekend is all contingent on players’ success. Sunday will give us some great final-round pairings, starting with Bubba Watson and Keegan Bradley in the last group.
Johnson Wagner plays with Rory McIlroy, which will give Wagner a good look at the World No. 1’s game.
Right in front of them is Webb Simpson and Tiger Woods, and ahead of them will be Luke Donald and Charl Schwartzel. One more group ahead will be Steve Stricker and Martin Kaymer.
So in the last seven groups, six of the top 10 in the world and Woods will be playing. Not a bad last hour at all.