Daily Wrap-up: Crowne Plaza Invitational, Round 3

May 26, 2012
Staff and wire reports

FORT WORTH, Texas -- Jason Dufner and Zach Johnson have set up what will basically be a match-play final round for the winner's plaid jacket in the Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial.

From the course
BATTLE LINES DRAWN: Sunday's Jason Dufner-Zach Johnson final pairing will essentially be in a match play situation. McAllister column
ALBERS' NOTES: Fred Albers' quick-hits from Colonial include changes to bunkers and par 3s. Notes

It will be Dufner, whose only two PGA TOUR victories came in the last four weeks, against the 2007 Masters champion who got the last of his seven wins two years ago at Hogan's Alley.

"It seems like one of us is either going to win or finish second," Dufner said after his 4-under 66 in the third round Saturday.

After two bogeys the previous three holes, Dufner matched playing competitor Johnson's birdie putt on the 17th hole and overcame a wayward final tee shot to save par and keep the lead.

Dufner's 15-under 195 total put him a stroke ahead of Johnson, who shot 65. Tom Gillis was a distant third at 7 under after a 69.

"I really wasn't aware of (the separation) until I looked at the board on 13. It was more than I anticipated," Johnson said. "It seemed like I didn't hear too many roars in front of us, so that's a telling sign. ... I still have 18 holes and that's my focus. I totally anticipate Dufner to keep doing what he's doing. There's not a whole lot going on that's wrong."

Dufner, the winner last week in the HP Byron Nelson Championship about 30 miles away, is trying to win for the third time in his last four starts. He also is trying to do something only Ben Hogan has done.

Hogan, Dufner's hero, is the only player to win both PGA TOUR events in the Dallas-Fort Worth area in the same year. When he did it in 1946, they weren't played in consecutive weeks.

The last player to win in consecutive weeks on the PGA TOUR was Tiger Woods in 2009. Nobody won more than two tournaments last season.

Like Johnson, who wore a plaid-collared shirt Saturday, the first time Dufner realized the gap from everyone else had widened was when he saw that scoreboard at 156-yard 13th hole. And he had a three-stroke lead then.

"From that point on I kind of knew that ... we are going to be battling it out in kind of a unique situation," Dufner said. "The leaderboards here most of the year have been pretty packed and you got a lot of guys having a chance to win the title the last nine holes."

Dufner avoided a playoff at the Nelson with a 25-foot birdie on the 72nd hole. The victory pushed Dufner to the top spot in the FedExCup standings for the first time in his career. He has led or shared the lead after 12 of his last 35 rounds, including five of the last seven.

Projected points
The race for spots in the FedExCup Playoffs continues this week. Click to see who's making moves at Colonial. Projections

After bogeys at Nos. 14 and 16, Dufner's approach at the 379-yard 17th rolled about 8 feet from the flag.

Johnson, within a stroke of the lead after a 17-foot birdie at the par-3 16th, followed Dufner at No. 17 with a shot to the same spot -- his ball up and stopped against the one already on the green. After a rules official sorted out the marks, Johnson curled in a birdie putt. Dufner then did the same to keep his lead.

When his final tee shot of the day went way left, closer to the 10th fairway than the 18th, Dufner got his next shot on the green and two-putted from 68 feet to save par.

Before winning the Zurich Classic of New Orleans on April 29, the 35-year-old Dufner was winless in his previous 163 PGA TOUR starts. He then took a week off to get married, returned to play at THE PLAYERS Championship before winning the Nelson.

Bo Van Pelt had his streak of 13 consecutive sub-par rounds at Hogan's Alley end with a 71. But he was fourth at 204, one ahead of John Huh and Ryan Palmer.

When Dufner and Johnson completed their first nine holes, they were tied at 13 under and had a five-stroke lead on the rest of the field. Dufner then had three straight birdies.

Dufner made a 20-foot birdie putt at the 386-yard 10th hole, where Johnson had his first two-putt of the round -- from nearly 51 feet -- to save par.

Shot of the Day: Palmer

Ryan Palmer holes a 50-foot birdie putt on the par-4 17th hole at Colonial.

Dufner had a streak of 38 consecutive bogey-free holes snapped at the 449-yard 14th when he drove into the rough then missed the green with the second shot. But Johnson had his first three-putt of the tournament at the same hole, from 60 feet after his approach from a fairway bunker.

At No. 15, Johnson's second shot settled into a grassy clump only inches from rolling over a ledge into a ditch. With his feet together to keep from falling over himself, Johnson's pitch from about 81 feet rolled only inches from the cup to set up a tap-in par-saver.

Johnson needed only eight putts for a 31 on the front nine, though some of those putts were just to save par since he hit just three of those greens in regulation.

"Today was a battle as far as my ball-striking. With the exception one lucky shot on 15, I didn't put myself in terrible position," Johnson said. "I just scored. I think Dufner played better than I did, but I scored."

Colonial Country Club: Round 3
The par-5 1st hole was the easiest with a Saturday scoring average of 4.342.
The par-4 14th hole was the toughest with a Saturday scoring average of 4.380.
About the leader
• Last week's HP Byron Nelson Championship winner kept his assault on the competition alive in the third round with a 4-under 66. Through three rounds, he sits at 15-under 195, three strokes shy of Kenny Perry's 54-hole Colonial CC record. Dufner will take a one-stroke lead over 2010 champion Zach Johnson into Sunday's final round. Johnson is seven strokes clear of Tom Gillis, who is in third place.
• In his last nine starts on the PGA TOUR (35 total rounds) and dating to a share of the first-round lead at the World Golf Championships-Cadillac Championship, Dufner has held at least a share of the lead after any round 12 times (including final rounds).
• Now in the 21st week of the 2012 regular season, Dufner (13 stroke-play starts) has held/shared the lead 11 times in the first three rounds of a tournament, supplanting Tiger Woods record (10 such leads, 16 stroke-play events, 2009) for most in a season since the beginning of the 2007 campaign.
• Should Dufner win for the second straight week, he would become just the second player to win the Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial and HP Byron Nelson Championship in the same year (Ben Hogan/1946), but the first to do so in back-to-back weeks.
• If Dufner wins this week, he would become the season's first three-time winner, and the first to win three times in a season since Jim Furyk achieved the feat in 2010.

Divots: Masters runner-up Louis Oosthuizen opened his third round with four consecutive birdies. He was in a group of seven players tied for seventh, but 11 strokes behind Dufner. .. That group at 206 includes Kelly Kraft, the 2011 U.S. Amateur who turned pro after the Masters. The former SMU player was 6 under through his first eight holes and played even the rest of the round. ... Vijay Singh, who got the last of his 34 PGA TOUR wins four years ago, was 4 under through six holes Saturday. He had four consecutive bogeys on the back nine.