Nassau (Bahamas), 01 December 2018: As the Sun baked the course at Albany, the greens were playing smooth as ice. With the pins tucked away at inconvenient corners, the third round of the Hero World Challenge provided for some gripping golf. So much for just laying the table for Sunday though, as Henrik Stenson, Tony Finau and Jon Rahm lined up at the top for a promising battle for the bulky trophy.
Stenson was in command, playing some crispy golf through the 12th. He went four under on the front nine and made three straight pars after the turn.
But he slipped up at the 13th and 16th, conceding bogeys against a single back nine birdie, on the par-5 15th hole.
The late spills allowed Jon Rahm and Tony Finau, both trailing by two at one stage, to catch up with the Swede at the top of the leaderboard.
Rahm matched the 69 posted by Stenson, while Finau climbed up the order with a brilliant 67 on a course toughened by tricky pin positions.
“Well, it was just really solid tee to green. Again, not many mistakes. The few bogeys I made, both on par 3s, tough par 3s, tough pin positions,” explained Rahm. “And actually the one on 2 I hit the shot exactly how I wanted to, just maybe hitting it too pure, the wind didn’t move it and it ended up in a bad spot.
“Besides those two holes, I played really, really solid, good golf, great off the tee, good ball-striking. The only thing I would say could use some improvement is just maybe making a few more putts. It’s just because you get a sour feeling, a sour taste in your mouth when you lip out on 18. At the same time, 3 under tied for the lead, I would have taken it at the start of the week. So hopefully tomorrow I can just keep playing tee to green the same I have and make a few more putts.”
Finau started his day on the wrong foot, making a bogey at the tough par-3 second hole. But he was spotless from there, making four birdies on the forward nine and two more on the return stretch.
“Yeah. Again, on a golf course where there’s five par 5s, you’re going to have some guys that take advantage of the scoring opportunities,” said Finau, looking ahead to Sunday. “The greens are perfect, you can make some putts out there. Just depends on the wind. It’s a good position to be in, and if I play well tomorrow, then I know I’ll have a chance to win.”
Woodland and Fowler stay in the hunt
Gary Woodland and Rickie Fowler also made 67s to position themselves for the hunt on Sunday. Woodland is fourth at 11-under, with Fowler trailing him by one stroke.
The best rounds of the day came from Xander Schauffele and Patrick Reed. The former made an eagle on the par-5 third hole and six birdies, moving up to 9-under through 54 holes.
Reed had dissolved into the distance with an uncharacteristic 77 on Friday. He made amends in the third round, with four birdies on either side helping the embattled Masters champion to a handy 66. He is back to T8 at 8-under 208.
Struggles continue for Tiger Woods
Tiger Woods had another day of torment as he struggled to find the sweet spots on the deck. A double bogey at the third meant he dropped three strokes early in the round, sliding to the bottom of the table. Woods sailed his approach left of the deck, nestling the ball in a swale. He tried to pitch it up from there and failed twice, before finally getting on the green with the putter.
“Well, one is that we don’t (deal with swales too much), the ball doesn’t really sit up, it’s kind of nestled, and with as grainy as it is, the hardest part is you have to hit the ball up,” defended Tiger. “The greens are built up, and a lot of times you’re on these swales and we never play this golf course with the green speeds like this. So generally, you can flight the ball down, you can keep it where it’s manageable. Right now with as dry as it is and as fast as they are, trying to get the ball up, you expose the bounce and that makes things a little bit more interesting.”
To be fair, the big cat worked his way back, and nicely too. Tiger made birdies at the sixth and ninth to recover most of the damage, but at -1 midway through the round, only Jason Day was keeping him company at the bottom.
But after a third birdie made the day an even affair for Tiger, the wheels came off again. He conceded two bogeys in three holes from the 12th to slip back to two over with only four holes to play. Birdies at the 15th and 17th helped salvage and even 72 to prevent any further damage.