Tense final day shaping at PGA
BY Bruce Young | US PGA Tour | 2014 US PGA Championship | Round Three | 10 Aug 2014
Given the great form of the game’s elite heading into the 2014 PGA Championship, the event has always appeared as it if might develop into something quite special.
Today those indications we realised with eighteen players, many of them amongst the game’s best, within six shots of the lead and poised to throw down a challenge to golf’s number one ranked player, Rory McIlory, in what promises to be a gripping final round.
McIlroy kept his nose in front with birdies at three of his last four holes to edge one clear of Austria’s Bernd Wiesberger, two clear of Rickie Fowler and three clear of Jason Day and Phil Mickelson but the chances certainly don’t stop there, especially give the scoring opportunities Valhalla has provided with her soft underfoot and relatively benign overhead conditions.
Tomorrow promises something special in major championship golf with thirteen of those eighteen players yet to win a major, while McIlroy, Mickelson, Jim Furyk, Louis Oosthuisen and Adam Scott are hoping to add yet another to their career record.
“Yeah, it wasn’t as easy as I expected it to be out there today," said McIlroy after his round. “You know, they tucked a few pins away, and obviously playing with the lead, as well, you maybe can’t play with the freedom as if you’re chasing. But really happy with how I finished; to shoot another 67 without really having some of my best stuff for the round was really pleasing.”
Tomorrow provides a different scenario for McIlroy compared to his earlier major championship successes as he knows he has very little margin for error and that it will require plenty of birdies to get the job done.
“Of course it’s different. At Congressional, I had the eight shot lead. I think I had a three shot lead going into Kiawah and then a six shot lead going into Hoylake there. You know, three shots isn’t really that much, either, if you think about it and I was sort of able to pull away from the field there.
“Tomorrow standing on the first tee is going to feel different than how it felt a month ago at Hoylake, because you don’t have that it is going to be a shootout. You know the conditions are soft; guys are going to make birdies, and you know that you’re going to have to make birdies, as well, to try and win.”
Wiesberger is the bolt from the blue. Currently ranked 70th in the world, the two time European Tour winner has hardly starred in major championship golf in the past but appears comfortable on this stage.
“I know what I’m capable of doing,” said the 28 year old. “I know if I drive the ball well and don’t get ahead of myself, I can play good golf. You know, I was kind of surprised that I was really calm today out on the first tee box. We had great crowds there with Phil. And hitting the first tee shot down the center obviously was a bit of a relief there.
“You know, as I said, I’ve never played well in the Majors. I’ve played well in the other bigger events in Europe and won a couple. It’s not the same, but you kind of get a feeling for what you have to do, how you have to handle yourself. It’s just on a different level. But, you know, things are still the same. You’re still out there with your caddie trying to do the best you can.”
Fowler was bogey free in his round of 67 and after three great majors already this year promises to go one better than his runner-up finishes at Pinehurst and Hoylake. He knows he is in with a great chance.
“There’s a lot less to explain than yesterday. I got to all the par 5s and hit a really good shot into 3. Other than that, pretty simple. I had to be very patient out there today. I was playing really well, swinging it very well. Had a lot of looks for birdies, especially on the back nine, and just had some mainly some misreading there for the most part on the high side.
“But the good thing is, other than one of my birdie putts that I tried to hit a little on the firm side, I had perfect speed all day, especially with some longer putts that I was just trying to lag up there and take par and walk away. So very clean round of golf and in a great spot. I’m excited for tomorrow.”
Day continues to display his capacity to handle the big stage. He was underdone coming into the event and carried health and injury clouds but here he is once again contending at the pointy end of another major.
“Yeah, I mean, there’s some nerves in there at the start of the round,” said the Australian. “If you haven’t been there for a little bit, it’s more nervous to be in contention. Then say, for instance, Rory has won the last two tournaments that he’s played in.
“Obviously I’m trying to get back on my feet right now. With all the frustrations, with injuries, withdrawing last week, I wasn’t the greatest preparation coming to this event. I worked pretty hard over the last week, bar the vertigo, I’m in contention right now. Got one day left. We’ll see how it goes. I’m still positive with how I’m playing. I feel like I’m playing pretty good golf. I shot 65 yesterday, so it’s definitely out there.”
Adam Scott kept his slim hopes alive with a great round of 66 to move within two shots of the lead when he had finished but as the leaders entered the back nine he fell further and further back but a round of 64 or 65 tomorrow might still give him a chance.
“I mean, you can’t hit it good every week of the year. I do a good job generally of playing well at big events. It’s not going to happen every week for me. I’m just doing the best I can with maybe not my best game, but trying hard to get something to happen.
“I’m probably too far back unless there’s something special in there tomorrow. I’ll certainly be trying, but I’m pretty pleased to have a bogey free round. That’s a good thing. Just needed a few more birdies.”
So Sunday at Valhalla is sure to be gripping viewing as so many chase their first major championship and the likes of McIlroy and Mickelson look to add further glory to their already magnificent careers.