Aronimink Golf Club sure played differently on Saturday than it did on Thursday during the first round of the AT&T National. The greens were hosed down overnight and considerably softer in the third round, allowing players to attack pins more aggressively. The result? The course record was broken more than once and the scores were noticeably lower.
The guys took advantage of the favorable scoring conditions, especially Nick Watney, who shot an eight-under 62, including a blistering 27 on the back nine. “For some reason the hole looked really big on the back,” said Watney, who started the day at one-under in the middle of the pack. “The ball was going where I was looking, and by the time I looked up, I was 8-under par.”
Watney broke the course record set about 45 minutes before he finished by Chris Kirk, who fired a 63, which was tied by Steve Marino a few groups later.
“The greens are a bit softer than they could have been,” said Watney. “I heard they put some water on them. They gave us a drivable par-4. Other than that, I mean, I guess the greens are so good that you can really start making putts. But I’m not sure why there’s so many low scores today where the first six rounds (including last year) here, it was very difficult.”
Scores averaged more than two shots less in round three (69.33) compared to round one (71.53).
Rickie Fowler, The Kid Who Is Supposed to Save American Golf, came out firing at pins, posting birdies on three of his first four holes, and carded a six-under 64. (Okay, seriously, I love Rickie. Every week I see more and more kids wearing flat-brimmed PUMA hats and shirts and there’s always at least one of them sporting all orange.)
“Before I teed off I saw that some guys were playing well and that some guys were making birdies and that birdies were definitely out there today,” said Rickie during his post-round presser. “I got out, and my game has been feeling good all week, so I went out and started off well, hit some good shots and kept moving from there.”
Fowler and Watney are tied for the lead with a three-day total of nine-under. I’m sure Tour suits, TV execs, tournament organizers and probably most of you out there are crossing your fingers for a Fowler win. Can he get that monkey off his back and secure his maiden victory?
Rickie plans to draw on past experiences to help him tomorrow, particularly those from last year’s Phoenix Open and the Memorial.
“I’ve played in final groups and played in contention,” said Fowler. “I think the biggest thing is just go out and be patient, not get ahead of myself and not get too excited or anxious, so kind of just sit back, relax, go through things the same way tonight and just go have some fun tomorrow.”
This is the second time Fowler has held the 54-hole lead. He was atop the leaderboard going into the final round at the 2010 Memorial Tournament, but finished second to Justin Rose.
“Memorial and Scottsdale were probably the two best chances I had at winning,” said Fowler. “I basically led almost wire-to-wire at Memorial and then I felt like I put up a very solid round on Sunday at Scottsdale, bogey-free 68, and just happened to get beat out by Hunter there, and Justin Rose played really well on me the last day at Memorial.
“I think I’m going to go into the round basically the same way I did there. I felt like I played well on Sunday at those two tournaments, just think we left a couple of shots out there in both them that were the deciding factor, and for the most part, go in tomorrow, stay patient, not get head of myself, and just keep moving forward and have some fun.”
We’ll chalk that one up to inexperience. After all, he was only a rookie. Let’s see if he’ll close the deal tomorrow.
(AP Photo/Barbara Johnston)