Harris English didn’t have his A-game on Saturday at Torrey Pines, but he managed to escape with a one-over 73 in the third round of the Farmers Insurance Open and still shares a spot atop of a packed leaderboard.
English, who led by two heading into the weekend, got off to a nice start, making a birdie on the first hole to extend his lead to three shots. However, on a day with tough conditions at Torrey’s South Course, he broke his streak of 39 holes with par or better on the par-4 6th. After driving it in the fairway bunker, he knocked his next shot short in the rough. His chip flew over the green and then he blew his putt to save par six feet past the hole before he missed the comeback for bogey and tapped it for a costly six.
The 25-year-old from Georgia recovered decently, posting eight straight pars before getting back into double digits at 10-under with a birdie on the par-4 13th. However, a poor chip on the par-3 16th led to a bogey and dropped him back to nine-under for the tournament.
With the difficult scoring conditions, English kept reminding himself that he was playing a very tough course and put that into perspective.
“I got a little carried away with my lie on no. 4 and I ended up making double bogey there,” said English in his post-round presser. “But I didn’t let it affect me. You got to stay patient out here. That’s what my caddie has been telling me all week. This is a hard golf course, this is one where pars are good, and don’t compound a mistake with another mistake by getting frustrated. I didn’t want the double bogey to get me frustrated and then to start pressing a little bit and trying to make birdies, because once you do that and you start hitting some crazy shots and the kind of shots that are pretty stupid out there and that’s where you make a lot more bogeys.
“I felt like I did a good job of maintaining my composure and playing my game. I feel like I had a good stretch there hitting the ball 15 to 20 feet a lot of holes and giving my putter a chance. That’s where I’m going to play good. This place is put the ball in the fairway and give my putter a chance to make birdies. So, I’m pleased with how I handled myself today. I know 1-over par is never good on the PGA Tour, but today it keeps me in the tournament. I could have easily pressed a little bit and turned that 1-over into a 3- or 4-over.”
English is looking for his third win on the PGA Tour. He won the 2013 FedEx St. Jude Classic and 2014 OHL Classic at Mayakoba. At both those events, he also held the 36-hole lead before going on to hoist the trophy on Sunday. While this is the first time he’s led/co-led through 54 holes, he’s looking forward to the challenge of finishing strong.
“I remember in Memphis I think I was one shot back going into Sunday; and my win in Mexico I was really close to the lead, probably one shot back or so,” he said. “But I love being in this spot. This is why I play golf since I was 10 or 11 years old, this is what I want to be doing and this is why everybody on the PGA Tour practices so much is to be in this position.
“I’m just looking forward to getting to tomorrow and being around the lead or in the lead with six holes to play. That’s kind of always my goal and that’s why I do it. So I’m — I love the nervous butterflies on the first tee and especially when all the people start watching on the back nine. That’s awesome.”
J.B Holmes took advantage of Moving Day, surging 15 spots up the leaderboard by posting a four-under 68 to tie the low score in the third round. Although he had three bogeys, Holmes, who endured brain surgery for Chiari malformations in 2011, carded an impressive seven birdies, starting with a chip-in on no. 4 to spark some momentum. While he gave one back on no. 5, he birdied nos. 6 and 7. He added to that on the back nine with birdies on nos. 10, 13, 14 and finished strong with another one on the 18th, putting him in solid shape to chase down a fourth victory on the PGA Tour as he heads into the final round.
“I played great all day and hit the ball well and gave myself a chance to make some birdies and I made them,” said Holmes. “So, I birdied 18 to finish, that’s kind of all I’m thinking about. It’s a tough golf course, tough finishing holes, bogeys are going to happen. Yeah, I made a few coming in. So, overall it was a great day, I hit it great, felt comfortable over the ball all day and just had a lot of fun.”
Torrey’s South Course is a beast and Holmes is known for his length, which he has used to his advantage, particularly on the par-5s.
“This golf course is a big ball striking course, so you got to hit it in the fairway, you got to hit some good shots and give your self a chance for some birdies,” said Holmes.
While distance is beneficial here, finding the short grass off the tee is also premium.
“With some distance, I got a chance to get there in two (on the par-5s),” said Holmes. “But if you don’t hit it in the fairway it doesn’t matter how far you hit it. The rough’s really high right now and you can’t move it very far. So you got to hit it in the fairway and give your self a chance.
“Even the par-5s I guess the good thing about that is if you do miss the fairway you can still get it up there and have a wedge in your hand and have a chance to make a birdie. So every week the guys make, everybody out here makes more birdies on the par-5s, so you always like to feel like you have a better chance on those for sure.”
Among the five players who trail Holmes and English by just one stroke is Jimmy Walker, who has already won in the 2014-15 season by successfully defending his title at the Sony Open in January. Walker will be seeking to add to his success over the past two seasons, where he has captured four PGA Tour titles since the fall of 2013.
“Mentally you just have to be tough because you’re going to get put into situations, it’s just going to happen where you’re just going to have to make a good par and you just have to be ready for that and know it’s going to happen,” said Walker, “then take advantage of good shots you hit and try to make some putts.”
Chad Campbell had the shot of the day when he aced the par-3 no. 3 with a pitching wedge. He fired a two-under 70 and is among the group of five trying to overcome a one-shot deficit heading into Sunday. Campbell, who has four PGA Tour victories, will be seeking to win for the first time in more than seven years.
Finally, Jason Day, the no. 8 ranked golfer in the world, was the only player in the top 10 to make the cut. He shot a ho-hum one-under 71 and is just two shots off the lead.