The third round of the Shell Houston Open was quite interesting with many of the players making good runs up the leaderboard.
The result is that it’s now more bunched than when they began. There are fifteen guys within two shots of the lead.
Stewart Cink and Bill Haas are tied at 11-under par and there are any number of compelling stories that would serve them up as our deserving winners; Cink is trying to resurrect a career that went off the rails for a couple of years here, and he’s doing it by not trying to be so technically perfect. And he’s very excited to get back into what it feels like to be in contention on Sunday:
Whether you’re five shots back or tied or whatever, you’re still — you’re — you got the juices flowing, no doubt about it, when you’re in contention for a win or just a really good finish. I think if anybody out here says they’re not nervous when they’re five shots back and they’re in second place, they’re lying, they’re lying.
I’ll be nervous and I definitely will not be ignoring the fact that I’ll feel a little bit nervous tomorrow, but that’s just natural human behavior and I’m looking forward to it. To get back in the hunt is what you play golf for when you’re out on the PGA Tour. It’s a lot of fun and hard work, but I can’t wait.
He also spoke about the mindset you need to approach the day where the field is all bunched up. He claims it’s easier:
It’s a little bit easier because it almost forces you by the nature of it to really sort of be inward and focus on what you’re doing and not what somebody else is doing.
When there’s just a couple scattered around the lead, you got a couple strokes between the next several guys, you feel a little bit more tendency to get into the future a little bit and try to control things. When it’s a log jam like this, I believe it’s easier to sort of focus on your thing and be a little bit more efficient. That’s the vast, vast majority of us work better is by sort of just being inward [focused].
And he agreed that it’s like tunnel vision:
Yeah, tunnel vision. Focus what we can control, the pre-shot routine and decision-making. After that, you let it go and the ball sort of just has a mind of its own in a way.
And because it’s Easter Sunday, he thinks that will create an even more enjoyable day:
I’ll just get myself to go out there and stay, like I said a minute ago, inward on the shots and control what I can control and just be committed. It’s going to be a great today tomorrow, anyway, it’s Easter, and it’s a big day in my family. We’re going to be joyful tomorrow and just walk the way and have a good time.
As for Haas, he’s relishing being at the front of the pack with Cink and knowing that he’s playing with a guy who’s playing well:
Being up there near the lead, you maybe don’t sleep as much tonight because you’re thinking about it and excited and anxious and want to do well. There’s nothing better. It’s the reason we play. You know, more times than not, maybe it doesn’t happen — doesn’t work out in your favor, but, you know, that’s okay. Just being there is a lot of fun.
He’s also looking forward to what the day will require:
You got to grind it out. Anything can happen. My win at the Tour Championship basically proved you just never know, anything can happen and you can get a great break and work out for you or it could go the other way. Got to stay patient and try to hit every shot as best you can.
And it probably won’t come into his mind too many times on Sunday, but he could well draw inspiration from the fact that he has a chance to win a PGA Tour event that his father, Jay, won in 1987. It will give them a second matching pair; they have both won the Bob Hope Classic (1988 and 2010).
Monday qualifier, Steve Wheatcroft, one shot back shot, even par on the day and didn’t feel like he’d played all that well:
I was a little excited on the first tee. I was ready to get it going. I just hit it right down the middle of the fairway. I was ready to go, and the first hole was the only hole that I just wanted to play a little cautious. Hit it down the middle, try to get it in the middle of the green, give yourself a lot of looks and nothing crazy.
After that, I was going to be pretty aggressive. Played great for the first 6 holes or so and just a little bit off. I wasn’t off much but just enough where I didn’t play very well today.
I like this guy. He thinks he didn’t play all that well, but he still held his own by shooting even par. He’s definitely in the thick of it and as a veteran Monday qualifier, he’s used to shooting low scores under pressure. For example, he said Friday that he wasn’t sure that his 5-under 67 was going to be good enough to land one of the four qualifying spots. So he has that “go low or die,” mentality…and he knows how to do it.
It will be a very interesting final round.