Greensboro Shootout

On Sunday morning there’s going to be nine guys feeling like cats in a room full of rocking chairs. Why? Because that’s how many players are within three shots of the lead at the Wyndham Championship at the Sedgefield Country Club in Greensboro, North Carolina.

You know how Tour players who’ve been around a while always say, “I can’t control what anybody else is doing, I can only control how I play. I’m just going to go out there and do my best and see what happens?”

And that’s the problem: it’s really hard to buy into that when you’re thinking of 66 as being a pretty decent score, but in the first three rounds the field has shot these kinds of low numbers:

  • 61 — 1
  • 62 — 2
  • 63 — 5
  • 64 — 6
  • 65 — 10

That’s 24 rounds of 65 or better…with certainty that a guy could throw a 61, 62 or 63 at you.

At 14-under par, Sergio Garcia leads by one and here’s what he had to say about these circumstances:

It’s going to be a tough day. There’s no doubt about it. Lot of very good players behind me trying to achieve the same thing I’m trying to achieve.

So, you know, hopefully I’ll go out there tomorrow, play well again and give ourselves a good shot at winning and see if we can finish in the same position that I was today.

18 pars are not going to win it. 14-under par is not going to win it. You have to make some birdies out there. We’ll see.

I don’t have a number. I’m not going to say I need to shoot 4-under, 5-under or whatever. You know, someone might go out and shoot 9-under and 5-under is not good enough.

I’ll go out there, I’ll try to play as well as I can. I’m trying to shoot the lowest score I can and hopefully that would be good enough to have a good solid chance at winning the tournament. We’ll see.

Well, of course you’re going to go out there a try to shoot as low a number as you can, but the course, while presenting great scoring opportunities, also presents some very real problems.

The course is playing hard and fast; the fairways are running. The rough is deep and thick; if you hit it in there you will likely have problems stopping the ball on the green with any real accuracy. The greens are new this year; you have to spin the ball to stop it. But, the greens are new this year and putt like billiard tables. If you’re on and can hit it close, you can make a lot of birdies.

So you have to get yourself settled into the round as fast as you can, preferably on the first tee. You want to be settled so that you can play freely, that is to say, aggressively. You can’t play aggressively if you’re not free because you will be “guarded” instead of “out there on the edge.”

And all nine of these guys know it. But in addition to that obvious pressure, each player brings their personal baggage to the party:

Sergio hasn’t won in the U.S. since the Players Championship in 2008. He has won twice on the European Tour this year and he did try to present them as equivalent, but he knows in his heart that they’re not.

Bud Cauley is one stroke back and playing well. He’s the guy who came out of Alabama last year and earned enough money through sponsors’ exemptions to avoid going to Q-School, one of only six collegians to do so. He has veteran Tour caddie, Tony Navarro on his bag.

Tony picks out a spot and I try to hit it there. He’s been out here a long time, seen a lot of great golf. When I’m out there, I try to learn as much as I can and, like I said, do what he tells me.

Tim Clark, also one stroke back, went to school at North Carolina State in Raleigh. Injured much of 2011, he would love to reward himself and his local fans with a victory.

Jason Dufner, two strokes back, would like to embellish his breakout year that already includes two victories (New Orleans and Dallas). He putted well Saturday, but he worries about it until he does. You’ll recall that he’s the guy who doesn’t really like putting or practicing putting and acknowledged that he had to work on that attitude.

6′ 3” Harris English in his first year out the University of Georgia, is coming along well in his efforts to learn how to play the game at this level (he finished T13 at Q-School). His swing looks languid and effortless and he’s just two strokes back of his first win. There was a lot of anticipation in his coming out: he was the guy who won a event last year as an amateur.

Carl Pettersson joins the two of them just two back. He grew up in Greensboro, roomed with Tim Clark at NC State and still lives in Raleigh, is on the board of the tournament and is a member of Sedgefield Country Club. Not too much pressure. But he’s also the guy who shot an easy 62 the first day.

Ryder Cup captain, Davis Love III, leads the three guys three strokes back at 11-under. He’s playing well enough this year to get into the playoffs, one of the CBS announcers said Saturday that he was the first Ryder Cup captain to do that. But with his 67, 66, 66, it’s going to be close whether he can catch the leaders if they go low. grad, Matt Every, with a T3 at Mayakoba and a T2 at the Texas Open in San Antonio, is ripe for his first win. Having walked the back nine with him in Phoenix last year, he’s no pretender and has nothing to lose. And he plays like that.

Second round leader, Jimmy Walker, had a mediocre Saturday with a 71. But he’s the same guy who shot 62 on Friday, a round he dubbed, “pretty boring looking golf,” for all the 5-woods he was hitting off the tees. So if he can get himself collected again (he played in the last group with Sergio) he just might collect his first win.

So a really nice, tightly clustered leaderboard on a lovely looking course has got to be worth paying CBS a visit on Sunday. It’ll be a shootout and there is no telling who will rise to the occasion…although anyone could.

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