5 Things: Woodland rises; Tiger hovers; more

Gary Woodland fired a 3-under 68 on Saturday to grab a share of the 54-hole lead at the Barclays.

Gary Woodland fired a 3-under 68 on Saturday to grab a share of the 54-hole lead at the Barclays.

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JERSEY CITY, N.J. – Blame it on Reno?

More accurately, Gary Woodland concedes he needs to credit the decision to play in the Reno-Tahoe Classic a few weeks ago for the position he finds himself in: Tied for the lead through 54 holes of The Barclays.

But to take it a step further, Woodland said the push to play Reno came from his agent, Mark Steinberg.

“Steiny was getting me to play,” Woodland said. “I wanted to take some time off. I was playing a lot.”

Having played 20 tournaments, Woodland was content to take his chances at Greenbrier and then the FedEx Cup playoffs. “But (Steinberg’s) goal for a long time was to play our way into the Tour Championship, so he said, ‘We have to keep playing.’ "

The decision to play Reno-Tahoe? “It was tough,” Woodland conceded. “I hadn’t played an opposite-field event since 2009.”

It’s in the books that Woodland rolled to a victory in that Stableford-scored tournament. In addition to the cash, he piled up enough points to get to No. 60 in the FedEx Cup standings entering The Barclays, first up in the playoffs. Riding a bit of the momentum he earned at the Reno-Tahoe, Woodland put a third-round 68 on top of a 69-64 start at Liberty National to get to 12-under 201, which provides him a share of the lead with good friend Matt Kuchar (70), who came home in 3-under 32 to end the day as he had started it, tied atop the leaderboard.

In position to do as his agent had drawn it up on the design table - play his way into the Tour Championship – Woodland will also be alongside Kuchar, the man with whom he combined to win the last World Cup of Golf.

But that’s just one of the many storylines overlooking Manhattan. Here are 5 Things to Know from Liberty National on Saturday:

• • •

1. HOW LOW CAN YOU GO? Ah, another day, another course record. At the rate we’re going here at Liberty National, we should expect a 61 in Sunday’s final round.

Barely had Rickie Fowler started to enjoy the spotlight of his course-record 64 in Friday’s second round when Keegan Bradley finished off a 63.

Impressed? Kevin Chappell obviously wasn’t, because 24 hours later he went out and birdied eight of his last 12 holes. Mix in the fact that he was bogey-free and Chappell produced a 9-under 62. Nice that it matches his season low (shot way back in January at the Humana Challenge) but even better is that it vaulted the 27-year-old into the hunt for his first PGA Tour win.

“I got some good breaks,” Chappell said. “Took advantage of them. I had a chip-in, and then I just really holed all the putts that you kind of expect to hole but you don’t always hole.”

Chappell, who hit 11 of 14 fairways and 15 greens, hurdled 40 players during his Saturday blitz, going from T-43 into solo third where he stands at 11 under, one behind the co-leaders, Matt Kuchar and Gary Woodland.

It also afforded Chappell an impressive assignment: paired in the Sunday spotlight alongside Tiger Woods (8 under, after a 69).

• • •

2. HE'S STILL THERE: Hard to figure what’s been a tougher task for Woods this week: finding a comfortable bed in New York City (hey, it’s the city that never sleeps, right?) or maintaining his quick start from the gates.

For a second straight day, Woods birdied the first hole. But unlike in Round 2 when he was 3 under for five holes and then bogeyed three of five holes, Woods in Saturday’s third round bogeyed the third and fourth to wipe out the birdie at the first.

“But I just hung around, hung around,” Woods said, and indeed, after he played the last 11 holes in 4 under – culminated by a 10-foot birdie putt at the 18th, he sees a leaderboard where only three names are ahead of him.

Kuchar and Woodland lead at 12 under, Chappell is at 11, but Woods seemed satisfied by a day of golf that began with him playing five holes to complete a second-round 69, then grinding it out in afternoon breezes.

Meanwhile, Woods confirmed that his back is still bothering him, though “hopefully (Sunday) it will be one of those days again (where I) can fight through it and see if I can win a tournament.”

• • •

3. REMEMBER HIM? Playing on a weekend for just the second time since April, Aaron Baddeley found Liberty National to his liking. Finally, he had reason to smile, his round of 5-under 66 his lowest since way back on Jan. 17 when he posted 64. That was his first competitive round of 2013 and hardly could the personable Aussie have known what sort of anguish was in store for him.

How tough? Try 14 missed cuts in 23 starts, including 12 of the last 13.

“It’s been a challenging season, it really has,” Baddeley said, after his six birdies and an eagle pushed him to 6 under, tied for 13th. Given that he had started the day joint 54, it was a massive move.

But that’s nothing compared to what might be in store for him in the FedEx Cup standings. Having entered the week in 119th place, Baddeley finished Round 3 projected as 74th, which not only would get him into the Deutsche Bank Championship but put him in line for the BMW. Unthinkable a few weeks ago.

Strange as it might sound, Baddeley said his low standing actually worked in his favor. “I was pretty relaxed; just go there and play as well as I can and play golf.”

• • •

4. MARQUEE GROUP STRUGGLES: They began the day tied for fourth, four behind, and full of promise. But the penultimate trio hardly lived up to the hype that might have been thrust upon them. Combined, Adam Scott, Keegan Bradley and Rickie Fowler were 4 over, and each of them jammed things in reverse.

Though Fowler did eagle the par-5 sixth to push into a share of the lead at 10 under, he doubled the ninth and came home with eight pars and a bogey to shoot even-par 71 and settle in at 7 under, now T-13, five back.

Not the kind of day Fowler was expecting – though he did exponentially better than his playing competitors.

Scott bogeyed a pair of early par-3s, the second and fourth, doubled the par-4 10th and needed a strong stretch in the middle of his back nine to shoot 72. He fell to joint 13th, now 6-under and six back.

Bradley fell the hardest, however, as he made just one birdie against four bogeys. The round of 74 dropped him to 4-under, now T-26.

• • •

5. SHORT SHOTS: Phil Mickelson has been rather quiet this week and he concedes that it’s been difficult to ride the momentum of his Open Championship victory. ““I'm a fairly emotional golfer in that I put a lot into it, and when it's going great, I'm really on, and when it doesn't, it's hard for me to get it turned around,” he said. Mickelson has put together rounds of 71-69-70 and suggests “I feel like I’m on the right path.” . . . Nick Watney confirmed that he has officially agreed to start working with swing coach Todd Anderson. The defending champ here shot 69–207 and is joint 13th at 6 under. . . . Don’t look now, but Jonas Blixt is making his presence felt again. With a 1-under 70, the unheralded Swede is 7 under, tied for sixth, and hoping to continue his stellar play – a win at Greenbrier, a fourth at the PGA in his last five events. . . . Just one day after going for 31 on Liberty National’s outward nine, David Hearn shot 42 en route to a 79. . . . Charley Hoffman bogeyed half of his holes but tossed in a birdie at 18 to shoot 79.

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