JT Shriners: The Three Musketeers

After three rounds in the Justin Timberlake Shriners Hospitals for Children Open at the TPC Summerlin in Las Vegas, we have a three-way tie at the top. Ryan Moore, Brendon de Jonge and Jonas Blixt all managed to play some pretty good golf and ended up at 19-under par.

Home town boy, Ryan Moore offered this overview:

You know, today was just a good solid day.  I didn’t do anything amazing, but at the same time, I just did what I’ve been doing this whole week, just put it in play, gave myself a bunch of wedges, 9‑irons into greens, and was able to convert a bunch of my reasonable birdie chances.

And since they finished with a five-shot lead over the next two guys back, one of them should end up the winner. And Moore thinks that playing together is a good thing for a number of reasons:

You know, I enjoy it.  It’s nice playing next to guys that are playing well and making putts.  Sometimes it makes that hole look even bigger when you see them just keep dropping.  That’s what was happening, especially on the back nine today.  Both of them got rolling and made a bunch of birdies in a row and I kind of threw in a couple here and there and kind of stayed there with them.

You know, it’s fun.  They’re both great guys to play with.  I really enjoy‑‑ I’ve played with Brendon quite a bit but it was the first time I’ve played with Jonas, and I enjoyed talking to him, and looking forward to tomorrow.

And since he’s a local boy and plays the TPC Summerlin a lot, he has a pretty good sense of how to approach it and what the downsides are of that approach:

I would say there are definitely more birdie holes on the back side than the front.  It doesn’t mean you can’t go out and shoot 4, 5, 6‑under on the front; that’s very possible.  But for me this course works that way.  I just want to play good, steady golf, get a couple under on that front side and make the turn and get it rolling.  I was able to do that today and kind of did that my first round starting on the back side, really got going early on the back.  I mean, that’s just kind of — I think that’s how this course plays for the most part.

And that’s exactly what he did on Saturday. He birdied 1 and 7 and then reeled off birdies on 11, 13, 15 and 16 with no bogies: 6-under 65. Whew.

And he went a little deeper into his course analysis discussing why he couldn’t go at a pin even though he had a wedge in his hand:

With a few of those pins today, like 10, for example, it was just a tough little pin, and they actually put that back there a lot when I’m just out here playing and practicing.  I see that pin fairly often.  I know you just have to hit it 15 feet short of that.  Even though I’ve got a pitching wedge in my hand, you just can’t hit it to that hole.  There was a couple times today where I felt like I had a little bit of an advantage just because I simply know you can’t be long on that hole or it’s gone.  And if you put it in the wrong place, miss it too far left or something like that, your chip can then go off the green.

And even though he shot 10-under, 61 on Thursday he didn’t feel like that happened because he was being aggressive. It was because he was being patient:

It’s tough sometimes because you have, like I say, a wedge or a 9‑iron in your hand.  I mean, I think that’s been kind of the key for me this week is just not being over‑aggressive, not necessarily — you know you’re going to have plenty of birdie chances, you know there’s going to be some pins you can attack, so even if you have a wedge or 9, just hitting that smart shot, hitting it 15 feet on one side or the other and not trying to be too aggressive, and then I’ve been fortunately making some of those 15‑footers after hitting the smarter shots.  I think that’s kind of been my game plan all week, and it’s working.

Blixt kind of learned that the hard way. He began with a birdie on 1, but then made two bogeys on 6 and 8. He managed to birdie the par-5 9th to come off the front at even par. But by then the other guys were beginning to run away from him…and he went back to his original plan making six birdies over the last seven holes:

Well, I kind of got away from my game plan in the beginning of the day, trying to be too cute, going for the pins, and I also hit some bad shots.

So tomorrow I’ll probably try to go back to the game plan I had from the beginning and just try to hit a lot of greens.  My putter seemed to work.  So that’s what I’m going to try to do tomorrow.

And stung by two bogeys amongst the seven birdies, de Jonge agreed:

Yeah, I think that’s key.  It’s obviously a golf course where you’ve got to make a lot of birdies, but in saying that you’ve kind of got to pick and choose your spots, as well.  If you don’t have a great enough for a number, don’t go for it just because you can see everyone is making a bunch of birdies around you.  It’s a matter of being a little bit disciplined, as well, at times.

So this will be fun to watch Sunday. It’ll be just like being at the Final Table of the World Series of Poker. All the big guns will be able to keep a close eye on each other and they all know what the winning formula is.

But the home stretch on Sunday’s back nine tends to make you want to jump into the abyss sometimes because you feel like you gotta do what you gotta do. It should be fascinating.

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