It’s very rare to have a PGA Tour event unfold through three rounds and still not have a clue about who’s going to win it. The co-leaders are Jason Day and Jim Furyk at 9-under par with a 1-shot lead over Hunter Mahan.
Day has a knack for playing really well in really big tournaments: the four majors, the four Playoffs, the four WGCs and The Players Championship. He’s had some rough outings, but he’s also had 17 top 10s. It seems he’s always up there.
Jim Furyk has had 24 top 10s since 1996, but that’s just in the four majors and The Players. He is the quintessential wily old veteran; every time you turn around, there he is.
Mahan is on a nice run in this tournament, shooting 68 today, the preponderance of the lowest scores of the day. Only Morgan Hoffman (-5) and Rickie Fowler (-4) did better. He admits to having spent quite a bit of time with his coach, Sean Foley. Since he credited Foley for being a good mental coach after Friday’s round, it sounds like he’s picked up some more of those ideas:
“I think it’s a great challenge for me to work on being patient and work on being very present in what I have to do right now. It’s a great challenge to do that. Especially when you’re so close to something that you really want so badly and how one thing can lead to a lot of other things. I have to work really hard on being patient and present in the moment and being completely focused on the shot in front of me, not the shot ahead of me or behind me or what could happen. I just have to be so in the moment right now.”
Young Mr. Hoffman has a bit of an advantage:
“Grew up playing high school golf here and I live ten minutes from here, and a few weeks ago, came up and just got ready for the event.”
“My home course, Arcola, is two miles away and this is kind of the sister course. The greens are very similar over there and it was pretty nice preparing here and there for this event.”
And here’s his secret advantage: he’s staying at his Mom’s house in his old bedroom where nothing has changed since he’s left:
“I have posters and Walker Cup pictures and all that stuff. It’s so comfortable, I don’t really care. It’s the same. My mom has kept it off‑key, so it’s good.”
And just like the good old days, his mom drives him to the course each day:
“I’m just kind of listening to music and she’s just being positive like she always is. And I’m like, mom, let me just listen to music. But she’s great. She’s so positive and I can’t ask for anything more”
Morgan and six other players are at 7-under, the most prominent being the 2010 Champion, Matt Kuchar. The Barclays rotates to different courses in the New York City area and Kuchar won his when the tournament was last at Ridgewood Country Club. It’s almost like cheating:
“Yeah, this place, just when I pulled in for the first day on Tuesday was awfully excited to get back, pull into the parking lot and remember the last time I was here was with the trophy Sunday night was a great experience and brought back some great memories.”
“And then to get out on the golf course and remember what a great golf course this is, one of the best we play any year. It’s a special place and it certainly brought back some good memories and some good golf out of me.”
And finally, just to bring another entertaining circumstance full circle, we have Phil Mickelson still trying to play the par-4 5th hole from the dining area in the hospitality grandstand behind and up the hill from the green.
If he hadn’t hit the green of the drivable hole on the first day, he might have chalked it up to being too risky. But he did hit it, so he kept trying…with the same startling results in the second and third round. He hit the cart path and the ball flew up into the grandstand where the gallery begged him to play it, which he did with his customary flair. He missed the green in the front bunker Friday, but hit it and made par Saturday.
Alas, he could do no better than a 4-over 75. 77 players made the cut, so there was a secondary cut to get it down to 70. Having made the cut on the number, Phil was down the road with an MDF and still more lore added to his reputation as a “go for it” player.
Sunday should be a golden opportunity for those who remain. We just have no clear picture of who’s going to be holding the trophy Sunday night.