Major breakthrough likely at PGA
BY Bruce Young | US PGA Tour | 2011 US PGA Championship | Round Three | 14 Aug 2011
Brendan Steele and Jason Dufner may well have been considered unlikely contenders for the 93rd PGA Championship when they teed it up this week at the Atlanta Athletic Club but at the completion of 54 holes the pair sits atop the leaderboard and one shot ahead of Keegan Bradley.
Dufner is a player good enough to have finished 5th in this event last year and although he has yet to win a PGA Tour event, his seven seasons on the PGA Tour have left him well placed for the task ahead.
Despite Bradley and Steele being in their rookie seasons on the PGA Tour, they both enjoyed success in separate events in Texas earlier this year.
This is the very first major championship appearance for Bradley and Steele but if either was to win such an event at his very first start they would not be the first.
Steele won the Nationwide Tour’s Tour Championship late last year to secure his place on the PGA Tour and has already made an impact at the higher level.
Bradley has a pedigree in the game to suggest he could go on with it tomorrow. He is the nephew of LPGA Tour great Pat Bradley and graduated from the Nationwide Tour after his very first season there last year and to have won so early at this level suggests he is something special.
Of the leading 19 players only three have won major championships so there is a strong chance that the PGA Championship might just continue its tradition of producing yet another first time major winner.
Day three was a day during which so many would come and go and in some cases come again as the Atlanta Athletic Golf club gave with one hand and took with the other. The punishing finishing stretch took its toll.
Those near the top of the leaderboard however were, in the main, able to hold their positions down the stretch, the notable exception being Jim Furyk who dropped five shots in the last five holes after finding water at the 15th and again on two occasions on the 18th to fall from 6 under to 1 under. He is not yet out of it as are all those at even par or better but it might yet be a case of what might have been for the veteran.
Scott Verplank is in a share of 4th position two behind Dufner and Steele and one behind Bradley but like his less experienced contenders he has yet to win a major championship despite a stellar PGA Tour record dating back to 1986. He also won as an amateur on the PGA Tour in 1985.
Surprisingly for Verplank in 62 previous major championships he has never finished better than 7th but that he is such an experienced player should hold him in very good stead tomorrow on a golf course that promises to play a little more difficult than was the case today.
The set up was relatively generous for a golf course that had caused so much carnage over the opening two days. 25 under par rounds were recorded today but tweaking of tee and pin positions tomorrow could put some teeth back into this demanding layout. Not that it was easy but the day at least offered the chance to make a move and many did.
Steve Stricker appeared to be losing his way when he bogeyed the 6th and 7th holes but did well to fight back when playing the final 11 holes in 1 under par and heads into tomorrow’s final round just three from the lead. He too has yet to win a major championship but he has more experience in big event in recent years and the first round leader could yet be the final round leader.
The winner could still yet an Australian. Adam Scott and John Senden are at 2 under and although five behind the lead are still close enough if good enough tomorrow. They will need to rely on help from those ahead but a round of 66 or better from either could well be good enough for them to record their major championship breakthrough.
Senden actually got to 5 under with five holes to play but fell victim to the dangerous final few holes. He is not yet out of it and neither is Scott and last week’s Bridgestone winner discussed that after his round.
“Yeah, it’s pretty hard not to realize that I haven’t won a major,” said Scott. “I’d like to. I’ve played in a lot of them now. But I’ve still got a chance tomorrow. I’ve got no pressure on me tomorrow. I just go out and go for it as far as I’m concerned. I’ve got nothing to lose. I’m here to win and win only, and if I finish 2nd or 10th or 50th it doesn’t really matter. I’d like to give myself a great chance to win tomorrow, so hopefully I can come out and have a great front nine and set myself up.”
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