5 Things: Garcia looks inspired at Deutsche Bank

Sergio Garcia holds up his ball after putting for birdie on the 12th green during the third round of the Deutsche Bank Championship at TPC Boston.

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NORTON, Mass. – Send more red numbers. Oh, and towels.

So long and arduous was Sunday’s third round of the Deutsche Bank Championship that officials were able to use two different starting lineups. Going twosomes off of the first tee is how it began, but then came a heavy downpour and a different mindset.

Threesomes off of both the first and 10th tees.

A bit quirky, but totally understandable, and it’s not like officials had much choice. Fact is, on a day when not many people gave favorable odds for getting the entire round completed, finish they did – even if it take a little play in falling darkness.

The good news is, the third round is in the books. The better news, at least for Sergio Garcia and his legion of fans, is that the Spaniard pushed to 19-under and assumed a two-stroke lead.

Here’s one way of explaining the generously low scores in Round 3 where 18 scores of 66 or better were recorded: Only 10 of the 76 players shot over-par scores.

And with that, here are 5 Things from the long and soggy day:

• • •

1. EARLY RISER: Closing in on 8 p.m. and having played a five-and-a-half-hour round, Sergio Garcia was understandably tired. But as he talked about his third-round 65 and the subsequent two-stroke lead it afforded him, Garcia mentioned that he was tired because he had been up since 4:30 a.m.

But his original tee time was for 1:45 p.m. So why the early rise?

“The storm,” Garcia said. “It woke me up.”

So why not go back to bed? Garcia smiled. OK, the truth. He turned on the television and immersed himself in football – the real football, the stuff we call soccer. After watching a little Manchester United action against Liverpool and then a game involving Arsenal, Garcia settled in for his real passion - Real Madrid.

Maybe all that fun stuff got his engines fired, because the Spaniard burned it up at TPC Boston. Out in a quiet 2-under 34, he had five birdies against one bogey coming home, his 65 allowing him to push to 19-under 194, two clear of Henrik Stenson (66) and three better than Graham DeLaet (62) and Steve Stricker (63).

There’s another long day ahead as Garcia chases his first FEC playoff victory and ninth PGA Tour triumph, so he was very much looking toward a good night’s sleep. He knew there wouldn’t be any football to drag him out of bed; he was hoping Mother Nature would be cooperative, too, and he wasn’t being greedy.

“I feel like if I get six hours of sleep that’s enough for me.”

• • •

2. OH, YEAH, THAT WAS JASON DUFNER: It was the 2009 Deutsche Bank Championship and Steve Stricker, ranked fourth in the world, was trying to hold off some quiet, unassuming guy we hadn’t heard of. Easy stuff, rooting for Stricker. Everyone knew him, loved him, admired him.

But who was this guy making birdies at the second, third, fourth, and fifth and going out in 31? Good gracious, he ran off eight straight pars on the back, birdied the 18th, shot 65 and made things uncomfortable for the fan favorite, Stricker, didn’t he?

Perhaps he did, or perhaps you can look at the flip side. It was our introduction to Dufner, then in his third PGA Tour season, though so unheralded was he that he ranked behind mighty chaps named Tomohiro Kondo and Christian Cevaer (though he had Hideto Tanihara by a fraction of points). Dufner started that week ranked 142nd.

“That right? Not sure. But at the start of that year I was 668.”

Oh, what a long -- and wealthy -- road it has been since then and if you want to say the ’09 DBC put him on the map, Dufner’s OK with that. “A little bit,” he said, recalling how that share of second place behind Stricker enabled Dufner to qualify for the Tour Championship and reap all the benefits.

“I got a solid schedule (out of that finish) and ’09 was the first year able to keep my card out here. It got me in all the majors in 2010.”

Fast forward four years and Dufner is not so unheralded. Now eighth in the world, he’s 19th in the FEC standings, and with a third round of 5-under 66, Dufner pushed to 15 under and is joint fifth entering Monday’s final round at TPC Boston.

Sounds good, but he figures the four-stroke deficit means he’ll need a strong closing round – just like ’09.

• • •

3. SECOND THOUGHTS: Neither the length (559 yards) nor shape (left-to-right) is particularly bothersome, not to the best players in the world. But once you get your golf ball around the green – particularly with the front right hole location – there can be some adventures at TPC Boston’s par-5 second.

You wouldn’t know it by the statistical data from Round 3 – two eagles, 27 birdies, a field average of 4.680 to rank fourth-easiest – but the hole can be infuriating. Look no further than the last six groups or 18 players, those with the best scores and presumably playing the best, and only three of them made birdies – Ian Poulter, Sergio Garcia and Henrik Stenson.

Two made bogey – Brian Gay and Justin Rose – so those 18 players were a mere 1 under cumulative score.

Approaches from more than 200 yards away that went to the back of the green left players with 35-to-40-foot putts that broke two ways. From back there, Jason Day, Jordan Spieth, Harris English and Phil Mickelson all three-putted for par. The collection area right or long? That, too, left a challenge and only Poulter and Garcia those last six groups was able to get it up-and-down for birdie from there.

Stenson played it perhaps the best, landing his 214-yard second shot within 28 feet and easily two-putting for birdie.

• • •

4. ONE, TWO, THREE, THEY'RE GONE: The championship began with such trumpets, the much-anticipated pairing of the world’s top three players – Tiger Woods, Adam Scott, Phil Mickelson – in the same group making big news.

But except for the lefthander’s opening 63, it’s been a quiet slide into virtual anonymity for he trio. On a day when the field average was 68.211, Woods shot 1-over 72, Mickelson was level, and Scott managed a 67, but oh far down the list they sit.

Mickelson at 8 under is tied for 29th, Scott at 7 under is T-41, and Woods is joint 47th at 6 under.

So locked into the roles of afterthoughts for Monday’s final round are the three heavyweights that Mickelson has drawn the first tee time (8 a.m.) off the first tee, while Scott (8:10) and Woods (8:40) are relegated to 10th-tee assignments.

• • •

5. SHORT SHOTS: Mickelson nearly hit his tee shot into the hazard for a second straight day at the par-3 16th. He barely stayed dried, but still made bogey and is 2 over on that hole . . . . . Rory McIlroy posted a 7-under 64 to get into a share of 29th at 8 under . . . . . Marc Leishman went out in 31, shot 64, and pushed to hurdle 26 players and get into a share of ninth . . . . . There were seven eagles made at the par-5 18th . . . . . At 18, the last 18 players went for a cumulative 12 under, with eagles by Scott Piercy, Stricker and Kuchar . . . . . For the third straight day, the par-4 14th played toughest, with bogeys outnumbering birdies by an 18-6 count.

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