PARAMUS, N.J. – If there’s a shootout in place for Sunday’s final round of The Barclays, thank a Saturday setup that made things interesting at Ridgewood Country Club. Scoring chances were still there, but the obstacles were a bit more challenging.
The rough is gnarly and that much taller than when this tournament began Thursday. Hole locations have landed in demanding spots. And the fact that the three par 5s are not pushovers – not at 600, 634 and 575 yards – and you have good reason for what happened in Saturday’s third round. Whereas nine scores of 66 or better were made Thursday and nine more Friday, only one player – Morgan Hoffmann – turned the trick Saturday.
Tough stuff, perhaps, but fun prospects, because with Jim Furyk and Jason Day setting the pace at 9 under and a long list of contenders chasing, the first FedEx Cup playoff tournament seems destined for Sunday fireworks.
Here are 5 Things you need to know from Saturday’s third round:
• • •
1. BEEN THERE, DONE THAT: If it sounds familiar, this business about Furyk having at least a share of the 54-hole lead, it’s for good reason. His bogey-free 69 to get to 9 under, tied with Day, is the eighth time Furyk has had at least a share of the lead through three rounds since 2010.
Oh, and the fact that he didn’t win any of those previous seven chances? Been there, done that. Furyk has moved on.
“It’s part of my . . . I don’t want to say my golf history, but it’s part of my golf game and what’s going on,” Furyk said. “I don’t really block anything out. It’s done. It’s over.”
The last time Furyk stepped into the winner’s circle was when he won the Tour Championship and FedEx Cup title in 2010. Hard to believe he’s been stuck on 16 career wins, given his consistency and the number of times he’s contended, but at 44 he still relishes the challenge.
It will be a little different than his last 54-hole lead, four weeks ago at the RBC Canadian Open when he started the final round three clear of his nearest challenger, but shot 69 and got beat by Tim Clark’s 65. “It was a much thinner leaderboard,” Furyk said, alluding to the fact that here at The Barclays, he and Day at 9 under have 13 competitors within three of the lead and 20 within four.
“Going to be a little bit of a shootout tomorrow.”
Is there added pressure, trying to wipe away this string of disappointments with the 54-hole lead? Furyk shook his head.
“Just put it behind me and try to use it to my advantage in the future. I’m just happy to be in a good spot and looking forward to tomorrow.”
• • •
2. DAY TIED FOR LEAD DESPITE PAR-5 WOES: Had you told Jason Day that he’d double-bogey the par-5 13th and bogey the par-5 17th and still shoot 68 to get into a share of the lead, he might not have believed you.
Then again, he takes great pride in the fact that he indeed chopped up those scoring holes and held things together. Four birdies on the back nine, including three of the last four, did wonders for his status.
“Obviously a little frustrating with how (the 13th and 17th) went about, but it was a good bounce-back, just for the confidence,” Day said.
At the 13th, Day drove it into thick rough left of the fairway, then was wide right and in thick grass – only the ball was never found. Returning to the original spot for his fourth shot, Day was again right, though he recovered to at least “save” a double.
Still smarting over that, he stuck his tee shot to 9 feet at the 148-yard, par-3 15th, then hit an approach to 18 feet at the 16th and to just inside of 19 feet at the 18th. To make all three of those birdie tries did wonders for his spirits.
“I just wanted to try and stay aggressive to my target out there,” Day said.
• • •
3. BO KNOWS: Being just two off the lead, Bo Van Pelt is quite confident he’s in the thick of things. Wasn’t it a week ago that a competitor came from four back through 54 holes to win? Sure was, and the fact that Van Pelt played alongside Camilo Villegas’ sizzling 63 to win is all the ammunition he needs to stride confidently to the first tee in Sunday’s final round at Ridgewood.
(For the record, Van Pelt closed with 69 and finished joint 14th.)
“If you can post a number, this is a tough golf course to finish on,” Van Pelt said after shooting 1-under 70 to get into a tie for fourth. He is knotted with six other names, all of them two off the lead, so Van Pelt would not bet against a repeat of last week.
“You can get off to a hot start here. You can keep it out of the rough, take advantage of the shorter par 4s, and all of a sudden you could have a 65,” he said.
But there’s the other side of things, too.
“It’s not that hard to make bogey out here.”
• • •
4. SO MUCH FOR SLEEPING IN: Shocking as it was to see one marquee name stumble badly, it was utterly stunning to witness two collapses. But there were Adam Scott and Henrik Stenson – Nos. 2 and 3 in the world rankings – playing like we haven’t seen them in quite some while.
The co-leader at 8 under through 36 holes, Scott didn’t make his only birdie of the round until the 13th hole, by which time most of the damage had been done. He played Nos. 9-12 in 4 over, added another bogey at the par-5 17th, shot 75, and got passed by 21 players. Now 4 under and in joint 23rd, Scott could only take solace in the fact that Stenson’s troubles were far worse.
After making a birdie at the opening hole to get to 7 under, it was like an outer body experience for the Swede. He pulled a drive into junk left at the par-4 fourth, had to take a drop, then was well wide and long of the green with his next shot, necessitating another drop. By the time he was done with the hole, Stenson had made a quintuple-bogey.
Thing is, it got even worse – four straight bogeys starting at the sixth.
From a share of sixth place, just two off the lead, Stenson fell into joint 61st, barely surviving the secondary cut.
You could say that Stenson’s chances of defending his FedEx Cup title aren’t very good. He came into The Barclays 61st in the standings and will surely fall quite a bit, so all of a sudden he’s not even a lock to get into playoff week No. 3.
• • •
5. SHORT SHOTS: Rory McIlroy went out early, shot 1-under 70 to get through 54 holes at 4 under and sounded like a guy who figured he’d be seven or eight back by day’s end. Wrong, he’s only five behind. Not impossible. “Something low 60s, try and get to at least double-digits under par,” he said, when asked what sort of effort could propel him . . . . . Hoffmann, a New Jersey native, posted a bogey-free 66 to push to 7-under 206, and suddenly he’s in the mix in front of the home folks. Not a bad place to be as you try to win your first PGA Tour tournament . . . . . Ernie Els got into a share of the lead at 9 under with three birdies in five holes, but bogeyed three straight starting at the sixth. He settled for 71 and at 6 under is tied for 11th . . . . . Rickie Fowler is tied for 16th and in good position to post his fifth consecutive top 10 . . . . . Justin Rose nearly holed his tee shot at the 289-yard, par-4 fifth. He settled for a tap-in from inside of a foot, the only eagle of the day at the short hole . . . . . Phil Mickelson shot 75 and was part of the secondary cut. Ryan Palmer (76) and David Toms (74) also missed.