PACIFIC PALISADES, Calif. – William McGirt has not won on the PGA Tour, nor on the Web.com Tour. In fact, McGirt hasn’t won a tournament since the 2007 Cabarrus Classic on the eGolfTour.
McGirt won in a playoff over Rohan Allwood with PGA Tour players Derek Lamely, Justin Hicks, Ewan Porter, Tommy Tolles, Matt Bettencourt, Andrew Parr and Casey Wittenberg in the field.
The winner’s check that May was $16,000. If McGirt were to win his first Tour title Sunday at Riviera Country Club, he would cash a check for $1,206,000.
1. THE QUEST FOR NO. 1: William Curtis McGirt III is 34 years old, weighs 200 pounds and is 5 feet 8 inches tall. Those personal facts will not change Sunday, no matter what happens in the final round.
But, it’s possible that McGirt’s best PGA Tour finish could change from ties for second at the 2012 and ’13 RBC Canadian Opens to winner of the 2014 Northern Trust Open.
“Oh, goodness; may run out of fingers and toes,” McGirt said when asked about the amount of mini-tours on which he had played. “EGolf Tour, Hooters Tour, some one?day tours, there was All?Star Tour in Jacksonville, Carolina Mountain Tour, Carolinas Pro Tour.”
McGirt could have gone on, but we all got the picture. It’s been a struggle for his return to the PGA Tour. Now, on the cusp of a victory, McGirt, a North Carolinian and 2001 graduate of Wofford College, can reflect on those times with great satisfaction no matter the outcome.
That outcome likely will not be in doubt if McGirt plays like he did Saturday, when he recorded eight birdies and two bogeys for a 6-under 65.
“It’s just 18 more holes, and whatever is going to happen is going to happen,” McGirt said. “All I can do is go out and play the best I can.”
2. NO ROUGH, LOW SCORES: Riviera Country Club is green, but under the ground its bone dry. With little rough, Hogan’s Alley has played relatively easy.
Through three rounds the scoring average of the Northern Trust Open is 71.217. Not since the scoring average in 2010 of 71.119 has the scoring average been lower and there is still one round left.
Of the top 23 players on the leaderboard, only three players were over-par, Robert Garrigus (73), Aaron Baddeley (72) and 36-hole leader Sang-Moon Bae (72).
The scoring average for the remaining players was 67.4.
“I think the pins are going to get us tomorrow,” Bubba Watson said. “They call this moving day for a reason. The pins are so?called a little bit easier. But tomorrow is going to be the pressure of trying to win a golf tournament, the people that haven’t won or the people that have won trying to win again.”
3. MAYBE THIS WEEK: Bubba Watson has not won on Tour since he slipped into the green jacket at the 2012 Masters.
In the almost two years since, the long-hitting left-hander has come close to his fifth Tour victory, including just two weeks ago when he led going into the final round in the Waste Management Phoenix Open and finished second.
“When you go back and look at it, I played great,” Watson said of his eventual outcome at TPC Scottsdale. “Only one guy beat me, so I played pretty solid golf. When I look at it at the end of my career, I’m not going to pout over not winning.”
After a bogey-free 64 that included seven birdies, Watson put himself back in the mix at 8 under, four shots behind McGirt. But Watson could be much closer.
He has made three double bogeys – two in Thursday’s first round and one in Friday’s second round. If those didn’t occur?
“I’ve never played very good here, but I love it,” Watson said of his seven appearances at Riviera without a top 10. “I’ve never putted as well as I want to, but I love the layout. I love the old-school layout. I love the history behind it.”
4. Fifty-Eight: Jason Allred will be in the penultimate group on Sunday. It will be a very foreign place for the Pepperdine University graduate.
Making the field as a Monday qualifier, Allred is playing in his 58th PGA Tour event with just 17 made cuts and total career earnings of $352,918, considerably less than what he could earn on Sunday.
Allred’s best career finish (T-14) came at the 2006 at the Chrysler Classic of Tucson. On Sunday he will tee it up with the Brian Harman and 2012 Masters champion Bubba Watson, a far cry from Bob Sowards, the last playing competitor Allred played with in a PGA Tour event at the 2008 Children’s Miracle Network Classic.
“I told my wife a couple weeks ago, if I can look back on the week and say I really enjoyed it and stayed present in the moment, whatever happens I’ll be proud of myself for that,” Allred said. “It’s a challenge at times.”
Allred’s 5-under, 67 ties his lowest third round on the PGA Tour that goes back to May of 2005 at the Bank of America Colonial. He finished T-51 at Colonial with a final round 71.
“Also to be honest, even when I go out to practice, whether it’s to prepare for a Gateway tournament or this week, I still have that belief in me that I have in me to win big golf tournaments,” Allred said. “You know, at times, even I have a hard time believing that over the years, but it sure is fun to be out here and be able to have a chance.”
5. SHORT SHOTS: Last year John Merrick was the last first time winner at the Northern Trust Open. He was one of nine first timers since 1935. … The third round yielded four bogey-free rounds, Bubba Watson (64), Brendan Steele (67), Ernie Els (68) and Lee Westwood (68). Through 36-holes only Sang-Moon Bae had a bogey free round.