Third Round

Third Round

The short game has come around, Gary Woodland said.

Woodland has long been known as one of the game’s biggest hitters. But underneath all that power, it turns out, lies one of the game’s finest understaters. That short game he’d been slaving over not only had come around.

It was shimmering. There were, for example, the 10 one-putt greens in the second round and the incredible fact that he had made just two bogeys over three rounds at Pebble Beach. In addition, that short game seems to have a touch of magic to it, as well.

One of those one-putts in the second round was a 50-foot birdie. And then in the third round he performed two escape acts. At the par-three 12th he chipped in from 35 feet, and at the par-five 14th he rolled in a putt of about 40 feet, both saving pars just when it seemed he would lose some of his narrow lead. Instead, after a two-under 69, he was at 11-under 202 and leading by one going into the final round.

“I’m in a good spot,” Woodland said. “You come here with intentions to play to win and give yourself a chance. And I’ve done that through 54 holes. We’ve got to get ready in the morning, have fun, come out with an attitude and see what happens.”

Maybe Woodland was in a better spot than he realized. He was one ahead of Justin Rose, who shot 68, but four ahead of the next nearest challengers, a three-way tie for third among Brooks Koepka (68), Louis Oosthuizen (70) and Chez Reavie (68). Others were scattered behind — Rory McIlroy, five behind, back to a tie for ninth that included England’s Danny Willett, who shot the day’s low of all the contenders, a four-under 67.

Rose, after a five-birdie 68, had a different view of trailing by a stroke. “One back gives me the freedom to feel like I’ve got everything to gain, nothing to lose,” he said. He’d been something of a wizard on Pebble’s greens. He had 34 one-putt greens through 54 holes.

It seemed Woodland was going to separate himself from the field. He’d led by two starting the third round, and was up by four when Rose bogeyed No. 5 out of a bunker. Then there was the two-shot swing at the cross-water No. 8. Rose holed a 10-footer for birdie while Woodland three-putted for bogey — his first after 34 consecutive holes without one.

The duel continued at the 12th, where Rose birdied from about 10 feet, but Woodland averted another two-shot swing with the 35-foot par-saving chip. “I was trying to avoid the big number,” he said. “Take your medicine and move on. Nice that went in.”

Ditto for the par-five 14th, where he went from rough to deeper rough, then finally holed a 40-foot putt for par.

There was quite a scramble going on to shape up for a final push at Woodland. It fell more or less flat.

The popular favorite, Tiger Woods, went sour fast. “I got off to an awful start and clawed it around,” he said. That meant three bogeys and two birdies over the first seven holes, which he considers the key to Pebble. “The first seven holes, you can get going,” and then it’s a fight, he’d said in the first round. He shot 71 and was at even par for the tournament, but 11 shots off the lead.

Rory McIlroy opened in a tie for fifth, shot a workaday 70, and slipped to sixth, five off the lead. He went into neutral with a birdie and a bogey and the rest pars on the first seven holes. Said McIlroy: “You can’t put yourself under pressure to have a crack at those holes. You’ve just got to let it happen.”

Dustin Johnson’s promising day fizzled because of a stubborn putter. He had five chances from inside 15 feet, including an eagle try at No. 6 (he birdied) and birdie tries at the 10th and 13th (he parred). He posted a three-birdie, three-bogey par 71 and was at two-under 211.

Phil Mickelson’s hopes for a career Grand Slam, very slim to begin with, disappeared beneath the waves when his tee shot at the 18th flew into the ocean. He triple-bogeyed for a 75 and was 14 off the lead.

Brooks Koepka moved up a spot, into a tie for third on a flawless 68, including a thrilling par save at the 15th, from deep rough and a 35-foot putt.

“I feel as confident as ever right now,” said Koepka. “I just enjoy the pressure. I enjoy having to hit a good golf shot, making a putt when the pressure is on. If you’re within three on the back nine, anything can happen. Hang around all day and see what happens.”

Third-round leaders: Gary Woodland 69–202, Justin Rose 68–203, Brooks Koepka 68–206, Louis Oosthuizen 70–206, Chez Reavie 68–206, Rory McIlroy 70–207.


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