Intriguing final day awaits at Sawgrass
BY Bruce Young | US PGA Tour | 2007 The Players Championship | Round Three | 13 May 2007
At the completion of round three of the Players Championship at the TPC Sawgrass, a congested leaderboard awaits what promises to be a fascinating final round.
Any one of 15 players, all of whom are within perhaps six shots of the lead, still have a chance of taking the title. The new look TPC set up provided perfect scoring conditions on day three with only gentle breezes resulting in all but two of the top 24 players breaking par.
The conditions are expected to be more demanding in tomorrow’s final round with the wind expected to get to 15 mph and the possibility of showers during the middle of the day.
Sean O’Hair leads the field into the final day after a brilliant late burst saw him finish his round at 9 under for the tournament and one ahead of Phil Mickelson. After a three putt bogey at the 15th, O’Hair had fallen one behind Peter Lonard and Jeff Quinney. Quinney had started his round in 26th place but when he had finished his day he was at 7 under and in the lead.
Quinney, a rookie on the PGA Tour after graduating from the Nationwide Tour last season, started this season well but has missed his last four cuts so these are giddy heights for the ex US Amateur Champion.
“Yeah, it’s a funny thing because I didn’t feel much better on Monday or Tuesday out here,” said Quinney referring to his form reversal. “I’ve been really struggling with my timing and swing and talking with my coach and sending the videos back home and just kind of said, the heck with it, just really go out there and just work on tempo and just things that have got me here, rather than trying to get something technical where I’ve got the perfect swing. Just get back to rhythm and positive thinking, and amazing how it just turned around real quick.” A lesson for all – perhaps.
Argentine, Jose Coceres, took the lead outright when he birdied the 16th for his 7th birdie of the day and moved to 8 under. That lead was short lived as he found the water at the 17th and took double bogey and then bogeyed the last to finish at 5 under. Back on the course Lonard and O’Hair looked set to battle out the third round lead when both birdied the 16th for Lonard to take a one shot lead over O’Hair and Quinney.
Lonard had started his round in dramatic fashion when he holed his second at the par five 2nd hole for albatross to move to six under. “I went out with the intention there’s a lot of fairways and greens, and stay out of trouble. I felt pretty comfortable and when I holed the 5-iron, my heart rate went up a hundred beats a minute. It was good to hit some quality shots after that, and I didn’t really convert them. All in all I was pretty happy with them.”
Lonard added a further birdie at the 9th to move to seven under but began to struggle after the turn. He was forced to get up and down to save par at the 12th, 13th and 14th but at the par five 16th, after being forced to lay up, he pitched to less than a foot from 100 yards and moved to 8 under. He led on his own at that point over Quinney and O’Hair.
O’Hair birdied the 17th from 7 feet then hit a brilliant second to the last and holed a curling left to righter to move to 9 under while Lonard was in the process of taking bogey from the right rough.
Behind, in the final group on the golf course, Phil Mickelson was just off the pace when he reached the par five 16th but found the green with his second and made birdie then added another at the last after a superb second finished less than 2 feet from the hole. He moved into outright second behind O’Hair and one ahead of Lonard and Quinney.
Given the type of scoring that was proven possible on day three then many players are still in this event.
O’Hair later summarised his round when asked where this round rated. “Considering the circumstances, it is probably one of or my best round of golf. That kind of put me on the spot right now, so I can’t really think of all the rounds of golf, but that definitely ranks up there. It’s (tomorrow) going to be a lot of fun. I’m not going to get too caught up in it. It’s just golf and I’m just going to keep doing what I’ve been doing, and that’s just play one shot at a time and have a good time out there.”
“The crowd is going to be a little bit rowdier, and he (Mickelson) gets basically an ovation everywhere he goes, which is a lot of fun. The crowd should be into it. It should be just a great, great day tomorrow.”
The Australian challenge is headed by Lonard but Aaron Baddeley and Geoff Ogilvy are still very much in with a chance. Baddeley’s eagle at the 9th helped him to a round of 67 and he is at five under and just four back. Ogilvy was also round in 67 also aided by an eagle, in his case at the 16th, to move to 4 under and has a chance to again display his capacity to win big events.
Two time winner of this tournament, Steve Elkington, Nathan Green and Mathew Goggin are at 2 under and not without a chance of a very good finish.