Watney in front, but PGA is up for grabs

Posted: 15/08/2010 in PGA

Watney cruises into first at Whistling Straits

Watney in front, but PGA is up for grabs

Nick Watney posted a six-under 66 on Saturday to move three clear of the field after the third round of the PGA Championship at Whistling Straits.

Watney, a two-time tour winner, bogeyed the last to finish at 13-under 203.

Neither  of  Watney’s two wins  was a major title,  but he finished seventh at this year’s Masters and tied for seventh at the British Open Championship last month.

“At  this point it’s just another golf tournament. I think that’s the best way for me to look at it,” said Watney. “Obviously it’s not, but I just need to go out there and keep doing what I’m doing. I’m playing very well.”

Watney  is  three ahead  of two  men with major  championship history in 2010, Rory McIlroy and Dustin Johnson, who both had 67s on Saturday.

McIlroy  opened with a first-round leading 63 on Thursday at the British Open, but  shot an 80  in round two. Johnson was the 54-hole leader at the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach, but a final-round 82 left him tied for eighth.

“I  mean I  definitely have a chance. And  it is nice that it’s come the major right after the last, right after St. Andrews,” said McIlroy, 21.

McIlroy  didn’t have a  three-shot lead with a round to go like Johnson did at Pebble  Beach,  but Johnson  is ready  to be front  and center  on Sunday at a major.

“I  played some  good golf  this  summer and  even after  Pebble Beach,”  said Johnson,  who will  be  in Sunday’s  final pairing  with  Watney. “Instead  of dwelling  on it and letting it affect me, it’s pushed me to work harder, go to the gym a little more, practice some more, to get better.”

 Wen-Chong  Liang established  a new course record at Whistling Straits with an eight-under  64  on Saturday. He  is tied for  fourth place with Martin Kaymer (67) and Jason Day (66) at nine-under 207.

Tiger Woods, a four-time winner who had his worst tournament as a professional last  week, birdied his last two for an even-par 72. He is tied for 31st place at three-under 213, a full 10 shots behind Watney.

“Well,  people have  shot 50s before this year,” joked Woods about his chances on Sunday and the two 59s this year on tour. “Things are starting to solidify, which  is good.  That’s a good thing.  That’s what I’m pleased about. It’s not like I’m working on eight different things. It’s just a couple key things, and it feels a lot better.”

Phil  Mickelson, the 2005 PGA Champion, struggled to a one-over 73 and is tied for 48th at minus-one.

The  tournament is  back on  track after  lengthy fog  delays on  Thursday and Friday. The second round was completed Saturday morning, then, with players in threesomes  off both the first and 10th tees, the third round was completed on time.

The  final threesome featured Watney, second-round leader Matt Kuchar and 2003 U.S. Open winner Jim Furyk.

Watney  wasted  little time  in erasing Kuchar’s  one-stroke advantage. At the first,  Watney drained  a six-foot birdie putt to tie the second-round leader, then went by him with a three-footer for birdie at the par-five second.

He  had  a decent  look at  birdie at the  third, but  missed the putt. Watney parred  four, then  went on  a birdie  run that  gave him  a very  comfortable cushion.

At  the  par-five fifth,  Watney came up  short with his  second and his third rolled  on  to the back  fringe. Watney  ran home the  birdie putt, sank a 20- footer  for birdie  at six and converted  a 10-footer at the seventh for three birdies in a row.

Watney was 12-under par and four shots ahead. He hit three-wood off the eighth tee  and that left  him a long approach. His second came up short and left and all  he could  manage was to pitch  it to eight feet. Watney’s par putt lipped out  of the  hole and the advantage was  two thanks to a Johnson birdie at the 10th.

After  a  spectacular save  from the  right rough at  the ninth, Watney’s next birdie  came  at the par-five 11th.  He drove into  a bunker off the tee, then found  the  rough and muscled  one 20 feet short.  Watney poured in the birdie putt to push the lead to three.

He  saved another great  par from the right rough at 13, but tapped in a short birdie putt at No. 14 to extend the margin to four strokes.

Johnson  and  McIlroy birdied 16  to reach 10-under  par and get within three. Watney answered the challenge. He holed an 18-foot birdie putt at the par-five 16th to move ahead by four again.

At  the  par-three 17th, Watney  hit his  tee ball 35  feet from the flag, but almost made the putt.

“I thought it might catch the hole, and screw in there, but I was very pleased with just — I almost got the line right and that definitely would have been a bonus if it had caught the hole,” said Watney.

Watney  hit into the right rough off the 18th tee and tried to lay up, but put his  second into the  tall grass left of the fairway. With the ball well above his  feet,  Watney punched  one to 40  feet and two-putted  for the bogey that dropped his 54-hole lead to three.

Watney  could  join Graeme  McDowell and Louis  Oosthuizen as first-time major champions  in  2010. He believes he’s  up to the  task, but has a solid mental approach to Sunday.

“I  can only  control what I do,” said  Watney. “And I’m going to go out there tomorrow,  put  the tee in the  ground on No. 1  and just try to focus on that shot.  It’s  going to  be a long  day, it’s going  to be  a tough day, but I’m really looking forward to it.”

Furyk  bogeyed the  18th for a 70. He  is tied for seventh place with 1995 PGA Champion Steve Elkington (67), 2007 Masters winner Zach Johnson (69) and Jason Dufner (69). The group finished at eight-under 208.

Kuchar shot a one-over 73 and fell into a tie for 11th at minus-seven.

– Stephen (DS LLC.)

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