The third round of the WGC-Cadillac Championship had something for everyone, but most people were impressed by Tiger Woods’ performance.
During a 6-under 66, Woods made eight birdies and recorded the lowest round of the championship so far moving from a tie for 25th at 5-over and six shots out of the lead to tied for fourth – and just three shots behind leader Patrick Reed at 4 under.
Reed, co-leader with Dustin Johnson, Matt Kuchar and Hunter Mahan to start the day, shot a 3-under 69 to take hold of his second 54-hole lead this year. The Augusta State grad also had led the Humana Challenge after three rounds – by seven shots before hanging on for a two-shot victory over Ryan Palmer.
Jason Dufner (68) and Mahan (71) are tied for second at 2-under and two shots back of Reed. Woods and Welshman Jamie Donaldson (71) are tied for fourth at 1-under.
Here are 5 Things to know from Trump National Doral:
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1. BRING YOUR A-GAME: The leaderboard is packed with some of the best players in the world.
Dufner has a world ranking of 17th, Mahan 32nd, Woods 1st, Zach Johnson 8th, Dustin Johnson 10th and Jimmy Walker 25th.
Patrick Reed at 23-years old has never played in a stroke-play event of this magnitude.
Having never played in a major, the Players Championship or a stroke-play World Golf Championship, Reed is as deep as he can get into championship golf with 18 holes to go.
“To me it’s another golf tournament. Of course, it’s a World Golf Championship event and there’s a lot more on the line,” Reed said after his third round. “But at the same time, I have to treat every round and every event like it’s just a normal event and another round of golf. Stick to the game plan I’ve had all week, and that’s what’s gotten me to this point. If I can continue to do well what I’m supposed to be doing and keep making putts, coming down that 72nd hole, I’ll have a chance to win.”
Reed is playing in his 51st event on the PGA Tour with a chance to win his biggest event of his young career.
In his first 50 events, Reed has won twice – the 2013 Wyndham Championship in a playoff over Jordan Spieth and the Humana earlier this year. In both cases he was the 54-hole leader.
Reed also has recorded six top 10s, made 32 cuts and earned more than $3.76 million in his career.
It was only two years ago after winning two NCAA Championships while at Augusta State that Reed would spend his Mondays trying to qualify for PGA Tour events. Then things changed as Reed got starts and moved from 584th in the world at the beginning of 2013 to 64th in the world – and is 44th after a last week T-24 at the Honda Classic.
A win would move him into the top 25.
“I just can’t get ahead of myself and tomorrow is Sunday, but at the same time it’s another round of golf,” Reed said. “Of course, anyone would love to win the event, but at the same time, you have to go in with the kind of mindset that if you happen to not get it done, it’s not the end of the world.
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2. SLOW BURN, FAST RECOVERY: Calmer conditions? Maybe with the weather. But coming off of the fourth green in Saturday’s third round, Jason Dufner’s emotions were as tumultuous as Friday’s wind.
“Wasn’t feeling too good about how things were going,” said Dufner, whose tee shot at the 209-yard fourth hole hit the precarious right-center portion of the green. Dufner knew it, too.
“Anything that seems to hit on just right of center of the green is probably in the water,” he said, and indeed, Dufner’s ball rolled and rolled and rolled and finally came to rest in water at the bottom of a steep bank.
“That’s kind of a tough pill to swallow.”
So was the fact that Dufner, whose fortunes took a hit with a second-round 77 in massive wind, walked to the fifth tee at 4-over for the tournament. He said he was trying to stay patient, but he knew he had to get something going.
And he did, too, with birdies at the fifth and sixth, then at the eighth, then he ran off three in a row starting at the 10th. “(It) turned me around and got me back into contention.”
Riding home with six consecutive pars, Dufner preserved a 4-under 68 that got him into the clubhouse at 2 under. He’ll draw a berth in the final pairing with the 54-hole leader, Patrick Reed (4 under), a position that Dufner is fine with – now that the fourth hole is well behind him.
“I was able to calm down and get the tournament back to where I could compete to win.”
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3. AUGUSTA, RIGHT AROUND CORNER: Phil Mickelson clawed his way back in the WGC-Cadillac Championship with a third round 69 a day after his 75 was better then the course average on Friday.
By any measure, it was a different golf course on Saturday with a stroke average of 72.574. Mickelson took full advantage.
“The course under benign conditions where you can fly the ball in the air and so forth plays great,” Mickelson said of the newly renovated Blue Monster. “You’re going to see a lot of birdies coming in on some of the guys because the greens are rolling very true and you feel like you can make 10-, 12-, 20-footers.”
Still six strokes back of leader Reed, Mickelson has a long way to go with 13 players in front of him.
Before the changes Mickelson had success at Doral with a win in 2009, a second in 2005 at the Ford Championship and a third last year at Doral.
“It’s not really my biggest concern right now,” Mickelson said of his chances on Sunday to win his 43rd event on the PGA Tour. “My concern was that I start to hit better shots and start to play better. I’m driving the ball straighter, my iron play is getting better, and my putting is getting better. I feel the game coming around, and so I don’t want to get worried about the result this particular week. But it is crunch time now, with Augusta right around the corner.”
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4. 10-SHOT DIFFERENCE: Jimmy Walker has won three times in the 2013-14 PGA Tour season.
So when Walker shot 77 Friday it was a bit surprising. When the same Walker shot 67 Saturday, it looked more like the Walker who won three times in less than six months.
“I didn’t know what the wind was going to do today,” Walked said. “I didn’t even really care. I just came out to see what was going to happen. Conditions were pretty favorable. I’ve been hitting it well. I’ve been playing well, and today showed it a little bit.”
Walker made seven birdies, but the round could have been that much better if not for a double-bogey 5 after a bunker shot on the par-3 fourth hole found the water.
Even in benign conditions the Blue Monster could come up and bite a player.
Now with a chance to win his first WGC title and fourth event of the season, Walker will be more engaged in Sunday’s final round.
“I did all I could do today,” Walker said. “I went out and did my job, and that’s all I can do. But yeah, it feels good. Better than going the other way. You go out tomorrow, play really good, you never know what happens.”
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5. SHORT SHOTS: There were no birdies at the par-4 14th in Friday’s second round, but it took until just the first group in Round 3 for that to change. South African Dawie van der Walt drained an 18-footer bright and early, and just five groups later, Lee Westwood made another. . . . For the day, there were eight birdies at the 14th, after having been just four through 36 holes. . . . Brett Rumford finally found land at the 10th. He had pumped three into the water on Thursday, then one in Friday’s second round. But in Round 3, the Aussie got it in play and wound up making five. . . Say this about Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano, he’s consistent. He’s gone 77-77-77. . . . Harris English made the first eagle of the week at the 305-yard, par-4 16th, holing a bunker shot from about 12 yards shy of the green. . . . Adam Scott made the first eagle at the par-5 10th, holing from 60 feet. . . . For a week of firm, fast, and demanding conditions, there still hasn’t been a double-bogey at the 16th. There have been 166 double-bogeys across the other 17 holes. . . . Four Americans are in the final two groups; Mahan and Woods go off at 2:35 p.m., with Reed and Dufner in the final group 10 minutes later.