Like the others in the final five or so groups, Bubba Watson struggled on the back nine when the wind started gusting. Watson looked like he was beginning to pull away, but after hitting a few errant drives, he started coming back to the field, posting bogeys on Nos. 11, 12 and 15. He birdied the 17th to take a one-shot lead going into the final round of the Deutsche Bank Championship at 11-under.
The wind caused havoc for most of the players with late tee times.
“I wasn’t sure what the wind was doing,” said Watson, referring to his indecision on Nos. 11 and 12. “They’ve got that false front on 11. Yesterday I hit a 6-iron. Today I was trying to hit a 6-iron, but dead straight, like a low bullet is what we call it. I just came out of it, not trusting it was going to get there.”
Nick Watney made a similar comment: “(The gusts) were up and down, so it was hard to pick a club and trust it.”
Added Brendan Steele: “The course kind of toughened up with the wind blowing all sorts of different directions, some that we had seen before, some that we hadn’t, and made kind of a long stretch of pars until 10.”
(Hearing that the pros even had trouble judging the wind made me feel better about my awful round. It was pretty gusty when I played Wollaston yesterday, but it would stop and then pick up again, making club selection difficult.)
Watson, who won the Farmers Insurance Open and the Zurich Classic this season, still admits to feeling nervous despite his success in the last two years, but he’s happy with his position even if he’s only leading by one shot.
“It’s always nice to be in the final group because then you know what everybody is doing…If you play slow enough, you’ll be two holes back, so then you know what you have to do,” said Watson, known as one of the fastest players on Tour. “It’s a good position to be in. That’s where you want to be. Every week, that’s what we try to do, is get in the final group because that means you have a great chance.”
Don’t be fooled, though — there are 23 players within four shots of the lead, meaning this tournament is very much up for grabs. There are also five players at 10-under, just a shot back, including the likes of Adam Scott, Jason Day, Brendan Steele, Chez Reavie and Jerry Kelly.
“Everybody at 8-under, 7-under, if they go out and shoot a low number, somebody shoots 7-under from 7, that’s 14,” said Bubba, proving he can add. “I’ve got to shoot 3-under. I mean, anybody has a chance. It just depends who’s got the hot putter or how bad the wind is, if one-under might make it tomorrow. Even par might give me the victory.
“You just never know because you don’t know how tough the pins are going to be, how firm the grass is going to be. Today it started firming up the last few holes, so tomorrow if it stays the same, it’s probably going to be pretty tough finish tomorrow.”
Last year at TPC Boston Charley Hoffman posted a final-round nine-under 62 to come from behind and win by five strokes over Jason Day, Geoff Ogilvy and Luke Donald.
Other notables who are within striking distance: Rickie Fowler, Nick Watney, Phil Mickelson, Luke Donald, Brandt Snedeker, Dustin Johnson, Charl Schwartzel, Geoff Ogilvy, Jim Furyk, among others.
Ogilvy believes the strong leaderboard is a testament to the golf course.
It’s a tribute to the golf course every single year the leaderboard has the cream of the Tour on top of it,” said Ogilvy, who shot 66 on Sunday. “I don’t think the scores are relevant. I think the people up there are the relevant thing. Every single year it’s exactly the same thing. The best players on Tour play well here: Adam, Tiger, Vijay, Phil.
I know you’ve got strong players in the field, but I think it’s a measure who gets up at the top, not what scores. That’s my measure, anyway.”
“It’s setting up for a great tournament, a great finish, which is good,” said Day, who incurred a minor sprain to his right ankle last week. “The big names are up there and I think that’s good for the game of golf right now and it’s good for the FedExCup playoffs. No one knows what’s going to happen tomorrow, so I think I’ve just got to come out tomorrow and take it a shot at a time.”
If Day keeps the ball in the fairway off the tee, hand him the trophy.
And don’t forget, the wind is expected to gust in Monday’s final round like it did on Sunday.
(AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)