As we roll into the final round of the Sony Open in Hawaii, we literally have a gaggle of guys who could win the thing.
The two leaders, Jeff Maggert and Matt Every, have a two-shot lead at 12-under par. They are contrasts to be sure. Maggert is in the home stretch of his PGA Tour career with a little over two years until he’s eligible to play on the Champions Tour. His goal would be to win so that he will be exempt all the way to the promised land. And he’s not taking a thing for granted: he had to go back to Q-School last year to ensure his card and managed to lock it up with a T13.
Every, on the other hand, is in his second year on Tour with a lot of experience on the Nationwide Tour. I got to see him play in Phoenix in 2010 and I’ve been wondering when he would finally break through. He hit the ball with a mass that made you feel a little sorry for the ball. But he got embroiled in an unfortunate incident involving marijuana that ended up costing a three-month suspension from the Tour last year. The stories revolving around this are convoluted, contradictory and confusing. But it isn’t really worth sorting out because he has served his suspension and it has nothing to do with his golf.
But with that said, both Maggert’s seniority and Every’s “troubles” are the kinds of things that could weigh on their minds on Sunday. Every already confessed to difficulty sleeping over it in his post-round interview. So imagine a day when they play flat or come back to the field even by a stroke. In that event they could be letting 31 other guys back into a chance to win.
Why? Because there have been five rounds of 6-under or better in the first three rounds, with Graham DeLaet shooting that 7-under 63 for the first round lead. If it’s calm Sunday, somebody could reel off an 8-under 62 and it would surprise no one.
Going into Sunday, here’s how they stand: two strokes back, 3; three strokes back, 2; four strokes back, 11; five strokes back, 9; six strokes back, 6. Any one of these 31 guys are capable of shooting six or seven under par and every one of them went to bed Saturday night thinking about it.
Worse, you have big names like Steve Stricker and Keegan Bradley (Keegan Bradley please pinch yourself again) in this group, but you also have a whole bunch of solid players the likes of Charles Howell III, Brendon de Jonge, Harrison Frazar, Carl Pettersson or Pat Perez very capable of catching lightning in a bottle and shooting a very low score.
Beyond that, as is always the case, if one of the chasers gets off to anything that could be construed a good start by them, they will suddenly see that pulling it off could be possible and they will have nothing to lose. The leaders, on the other hand, have to fight the temptation to play guardedly. A two-year exemption and $990,000 is at stake. Can they just relax into the best in themselves? Or will it be careful plodding trying to avoid making a mistake?
Well, that’s why they play the games and we’ll get to see how it sorts itself out on the Golf Channel from 7:00 to 10:00 PM (ET). With all the football games over, it should make for captivating viewing.