BETHESDA, Md. — A triple bogey for Bill Haas. Double bogeys for Andres Romero and Roberto Castro. They still wound up in a four-way tie for the lead Saturday in the AT&T National with James Driscoll, whose third round was pleasantly dull by comparison.
Castro put the perfect finishing touch on this most wild day at Congressional when he hit his approach into the water left of the 18th green, and then chipped in for par from 80 feet to salvage an even-par 71 and keep a share of the lead.
Haas made nine birdies and had to settle for a 68, courtesy of two wedge shots that cost him four shots, including his triple bogey on the beastly 11th hole. Romero had a three-shot lead at one point, and then it was gone. He went from the water to a bunker on the 11th for double bogey and followed that with a bogey on the next hole. He made six pars the rest of the way for a 70.
Driscoll, meanwhile, motored along without too much excitement. He had a 68, the only player in the field to break 70 all three rounds. Coming off a bogey on the 15th, Driscoll though he might be headed for another with a poor tee shot. But he knocked a 4-iron out of the rough, barely got onto the green and rolled in a 25-foot birdie.
They were at 7-under 206, and more fun awaits Sunday.
“I think over four days here, every player is going to hit kind of a rough patch,” Castro said.
Ten players were separated by four shots going into the final round, a group that includes 19-year-old Jordan Spieth. He had a two-shot lead after opening with two straight birdies, and then went through a stretch of missing five putts inside 8 feet on a four-hole stretch. One of them was a three-putt from 5 feet for double bogey on No. 8. Spieth had a 74, though he’s still in the game, just three shots behind.
“A wild day,” Castro said.
Jason Kokrak had a 70 and was one shot out of the lead, while Charlie Wi had a 29 on the front nine and shot 65 to finish two shots behind, along with Tom Gillis (66). Spieth was in the group at 209 with Brandt Snedeker, who had a 69.
If Saturday was any indication, expect anything in the final round, especially since seven of those 10 players have never won on the PGA Tour.
“The back nine, I didn’t really know where I was going,” Haas said. “Luckily after that triple, I was able to hit three decent iron shots and then make the putt. Certainly, it could have been a 6-, 7-, 8-under day. But it also could have been a 4-, 5-, 6-over day if I hadn’t putted well. I don’t really know what to make of how I’m playing. Just got to hopefully do more good than bad tomorrow.”
Spieth had a two-shot lead when he walked off the third green. Five holes later, he was four shots behind.
Haas was five shots behind after his triple bogey. Four holes later, he had the lead to himself.
Romero was the only player to reach 10 under at any point, with four birdies on the front nine, including a sand wedge out of ankle-deep rough left of the eighth fairway to about 5 feet. He was sailing along until he set up for a fade on the 11th hole and came off the shot, sending it into the hazard.
Castro’s problems were early, and not entirely up to him. After a bogey on the par-3 second hole when he was on the down slope of a bunker to a short pin, he hit a tee shot right of the third fairway. Just his luck, the ball landed in the soft sand at the edge of the grass and disappeared. The ball was buried under an inch of sand that Castro had to scrape away just to make sure the ball was his.
He took a penalty shot to drop it in the middle of the bunker, couldn’t reach the green and made double bogey. He hit great putts just to save par on the next two holes which settled him down and he made only one bogey the rest of the way.
It looked early on as though the more times Spieth put himself in contention, the more comfortable he would be. That only lasted a short time.
He opened with a 10-foot birdie putt and followed that with a tee shot that used the backstop perfectly on the par-3 second, the ball rolling back down the hill to 2 feet for a tap-in birdie. After a good par on the third hole, he had a two-shot lead.
Five holes later, he was four shots behind.
That’s how quickly the scores changed on a balmy Saturday at Congressional — not just for Spieth, but for everyone.
Spieth’s troubles began when he missed the green long and right on the fifth hole, leaving him a downhill chip to an elevated green. The best he could do was 15 feet and he missed his par putt, ending his streak of 33 straight holes without a bogey.
He missed an 8-foot birdie putt on the par-5 sixth. After hitting 3-wood into thick rough left of the fairway at No. 8 and hacking out short of the green, Spieth had a chance to save par until he missed from 5 feet — and then missed from 3 feet — and made double bogey. And on the ninth, his wedge spun off the front of the green and rolled down the hill, leading to another bogey. If that wasn’t enough, he missed a 7-foot birdie putt on the 10th.
Romero pushed his tee shot into the hazard on No. 11 and made double bogey, and a bogey on the 12th cost him his three-shot lead. Spieth was still only two shots behind, though his sagging shoulders suggested the deficit was much larger.
Haas was making a steady climb toward the leaders until he hit into the rough on the 11th, pitched out to the fairway and then hit wedge into the water. On the par-5 16th, Haas hit another poor wedge that came up short and led to bogey.
He could have done without the excitement. Haas had to play nine holes in the morning to complete his rain-delayed second round.
“Looking forward to tomorrow to hopefully make nine birdies — or half that,” he said. “I’ll take four or five birdies tomorrow and eliminate some mistakes, and maybe win this thing.”
Couples finishes strong,
takes Seniors lead
PITTSBURGH — Fred Couples birdied three of the final five holes for a 3-under 67 and a two-stroke lead Saturday after the third round of the Senior Players Championship.
Couples completed a 62 in the morning in the rain-delayed second round and had a 15-under 195 total at Fox Chapel.
Kenny Perry was second in the Champions Tour major. He finished off a 63 in the morning and backed it up with another 63 in the afternoon. Duffy Waldorf was third at 11 under after rounds of 67 and 66.
First-round leader John Huston briefly pulled into a tie with Couples early in the third round, but bogeyed the final two holes for a 68 to join Mike Goodes (65) at 10 under.
The 53-year-old Couples appeared ready to run away with the tournament Friday, when he streaked to 7 under through 11 holes of the second round before a torrential downpour halted play for the day.
The deluge cooled Couples off a bit. He two-putted from 60 feet on the par-3 third when he returned to the course Saturday morning then rolled in five straight pars before finishing his round off with a birdie on the par-4 ninth for an 8-under 62.
The score matched the lowest ever in one of the Champions Tour’ five majors. Several players have reached the mark in the tour’s 34 seasons, with Olin Browne being the last in the second round of last year’s Senior Players.
It’s a number Perry nearly matched twice in the span of six hours. Perry played the last six holes of the second round Saturday morning in 4 under — including an eagle on the short par-4 seventh — to get within six shots of the Couples after 36 holes.
The Kentucky player kept coming when he teed off one group in front of the leaders Couples and Huston in the afternoon, putting together seven birdies against no bogeys to set a tournament record for the best score over 36 holes. Perry’s combined total of 14-under 126 in the second and third rounds is two better than the 128 Jack Nicklaus posted in 1990 when the tournament was held in Dearborn, Mich.
Perry briefly created a three-way logjam with Couples and Huston when he birdied the 12th and Couples three-putted the 10th green for bogey.
The missed opportunity seemed to wake Couples up. Frustrated he couldn’t take advantage of the soft conditions that led to Perry’s assault on the par-70 layout, Couples birdied Nos. 14 and 15, then capped his round with a splendid pitch from in front of the left bunker on the par-5 18th, allowing him to roll in a birdie to give him a two-shot cushion over Perry.
It’s familiar territory for Couples, who is searching for his third major title since joining the Champions Tour in 2010. He won the Senior Players in 2011 at Westchester Country Club in New York and the Senior British Open last year. The Hall of Famer was in position to capture the Regions Tradition earlier this month but fell one shot short in a showdown with points leader David Frost.
This time it appears the duel will be with Perry, who is pain-free after dealing with knee problems earlier in the season.
Park on verge of
third straight major
SOUTHAMPTON, N.Y. — Inbee Park is one round from making history by winning the first three majors of the year.
The top-ranked Park had a four-stroke lead through three rounds at the U.S. Women’s Open. She shot 1-under 71 on Saturday in harsh conditions at Sebonack and was 10 under for the tournament.
Fellow South Korean I.K. Kim had a 73 to remain in second but lost two strokes to Park. With the wind whipping, the greens fast and the pin placements tricky, Park was the only player to shoot under par for the round.
No one has ever won the first three majors in a year when there were at least four.
“I’m just going to try to do the same thing that I did for the last three days,” Park said. “Yeah, it will be a big day. But it’s just a round of golf, and I just try not to think about it so much.”
Park made three straight bogeys on the 11th, 12th and 13th holes to briefly look vulnerable — though she still led by three strokes. Just in time, her brilliant putting resurfaced.
She holed a long downhill birdie putt on No. 14, then made another lengthy birdie try on the 15th.
It looked as though nobody would break par for the day until she birdied No. 18. Only five players were under par for the tournament.
England’s Jodi Ewart Shadoff (74) was third at 3 under. She had to play 21 holes Saturday after the second round was suspended the night before because of fog. Park had good timing Friday: Her group was on the 18th fairway when the horn sounded, so she was able to finish off her round and rest up for the weekend.
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