Daily Wrap-up: Round 3, The BarclaysAugust 25, 2012
Staff and wire reports
FARMINGDALE, N.Y. -- Bethpage State Park Black Course lived up its reputation because of the greens, which in some cases looked brown during the third round of the FedExCup Playoffs opener.
Sergio Garcia called them the fastest putting surfaces he could recall. Nick Watney referred to them as extreme. More than one player suggested the course was unplayable Saturday in The Barclays, certainly late in the afternoon as the sun baked out the public course on Long Island. And yes, there were references to Shinnecock Hills, the private club on Long Island where the greens were out of control on the final day of the 2004 U.S. Open.
Garcia managed them just fine.
With no bogeys over his final eight holes, he turned a three-shot deficit into a two-shot lead over Nick Watney with a 2-under 69. Such were the conditions that Garcia was the only player among the final 18 to finish who broke 70.
"The course is extremely firm," he said. "The greens, just probably some of the fastest greens I've ever played. Just one of those days where you knew it was going to be tough and you have to hold on very tight, and just kind of hope for the best."
Garcia went four years without winning on the PGA TOUR and now has a chance to make it two in a row and surge to the top of the FedExCup standings. He was at 10-under 203, and only four players were within four shots of the lead.
Watney, who made five putts over 15 feet, went after another one on the 18th hole and this one cost him. The ball raced 10 feet by the hole, and he missed it coming back for his only official three-putt of the round. That gave him an even-par 71, though still in good shape to make a run at his first win of the year.
"The course just kind of beat you up," Watney said.
He got one small measure of revenge by making a 35-foot putt on the par-3 17th for the only birdie of the round. By late afternoon, the green was so firm that shots landing near the front pin settled in the rough or fringe behind the green.
Tiger Woods, who started the third round three shots out of the lead,three-putted for bogey three times on the front nine alone. He had another three-putt on the 14th hole, this one from 15 feet, and had a 72 that put him six shots behind.
"I don't remember blowing putts by 8 to 10 feet," Woods said. "So that was a bit of a shocker."
He knew what to expect on the first hole, when he watched Gary Christian lean on his putter and nearly fall over because the club had no traction on the slippery surface.
LARRY DORMAN ARCHIVE: Larry Dorman is on-site this week in New York. Click to read all of his signature columns. Archive Round 3 Notebook Bob Estes, Kevin Stadler are positioned to make significant moves up the FedExCup ranks. Update | Projected points
Kevin Stadler played early, when the greens still had some moisture, and had a remarkable round of 65 without any bogeys. He moved up from a tie for 42nd to alone in third place, three shots behind. Brandt Snedeker started strong and closed with nine pars, which was equally impressive, for a 68 that put him four back.
Phil Mickelson might still be in the game. Twice a runner-up at Bethpage Black -- both times in the U.S. Open -- Mickelson played early Saturday and had a 67. That eventually put him in the large group at 4-under 209 that included Woods, Louis Oosthuizen, Lee Westwood and Charl Schwartzel, an impressive collection of players who have either won a major or been No. 1 in the world.
"If you play well, you can shoot a decent score, but as the day goes on, the course just gets harder and harder," Garcia said. "No doubt playing in the morning makes it a little bit easier. Even though the greens were still firm, they were probably not as firm and probably not quite as fast. It's just we know what Bethpage Black is all about. We know it's a tough golf course, and you've just got to realize that's the way it's going to be."
And so it was.
Slugger White, the TOUR's vice president of rules and competition, disputed the idea that course was on the verge of being unplayable.
"The golf course is not unplayable," he said.
White conceded a few greens became "crusty," particularly at Nos. 2 and 8, and that the staff was thinking there would be more cloud cover. He went out to the greens after the last group came through and said, "I saw no issues."
"Players always want firm and fast," he said. "It seems like when we give them firm and fast, they don't want firm and fast. I hear Tiger say it was too soft on Thursday. And then some guy walks off the tee and says, `Have you guys run out of water?' Where do you go? We're doing the best we can."
Watney didn't entirely agree.
"There's firm and fast, and then there's this," Watney said. "I mean, this is pretty extreme."
Snedeker not only boosted his chances for a second win this year, it might be enough for him to be a Ryder Cup pick. He had four birdies in seven holes, and equally impressive was finishing with nine straight pars.
"Just got on a run with the putter," Snedeker said. "Was on the edge all day. Got some lucky breaks out there. You just can't hit greens out there, I don't care what anybody says. The greens are pretty much unplayable for the most part. You can't hit them. Just really, really a tough test."
And this from a guy with a 68.
Shot of the Day: Woods
In the third round of The Barclays, Tiger Woods holes a 53-foot birdie putt on the par-3 8th hole.
More extreme than the commentary was the turnaround at the top.
Watney had a three-shot lead walking off the 10th hole. Three holes later, it was gone.
With his first poor swing of the day, Watney went from the middle of the 11th fairway to the right bunker and made bogey, while Garcia holed a 20-foot birdie putt. Watney followed with a tee shot well to the left to set up another bogey, and the lead was gone. And on the par-5 13th, Garcia made birdie to take the lead.
But it wasn't easy.
"This will tell you how fast it was," Garcia said. "Usually when you are putting on fast greens, you have an idea where the ball is going to stop. And today, you didn't. You thought the ball was going to stop 2 feet behind the hole, and it went 6. It was pretty much as simple as that.
"Was it unfair? I wouldn't say it was unfair," he said. "It was borderline. It was very close. It felt like the greens were very close to Shinnecock Hills at the U.S. Open."
Bethpage Black: Round 3 EASIEST HOLE TOUGHEST HOLE The par-5 seventh hole was the easiest with a Saturday scoring average of 4.413.
EAGLES: 2 BIRDIES: 43 PARS: 27 BOGEYS: 3 OTHER: 0
The par-4 8th hole was the toughest with a Saturday scoring average of 3.360.
EAGLES: 0 BIRDIES: 5 PARS: 45
BOGEYS: 20 OTHERS: 5
About the leader: Sergio Garcia • In search of his third-career victory at The Barclays, Sergio Garcia carded a 2-under 69 Saturday and carries a two-shot lead into the final round. Garcia converted a two-stroke 54-hole lead into victory at The Barclays 2001 and overcame a four-shot deficit to win The Barclays 2004. Last week Garcia converted a one-stroke 54-hole lead into victory at the Wyndham Championship, his eighth PGA TOUR title. • The Barclays 2012 represents the ninth time Garcia has held the lead/co-lead entering the final round on TOUR. He has three victories, three runner-up finishes, a solo fourth and a tie for eighth in the previous eight events. • Garcia, currently No. 33 in the FedExCup standings, fell as far as No. 108 in the standings this season and entered the Wyndham Championship at No. 102. With a victory at The Barclays, Garcia would move to No. 1 in the FedExCup standings for the first time in his career. His previous best position in the FedExCup standings was No. 2 following a P2 at The Barclays in 2008. • Garcia is one of the most successful players at The Barclays, with two career victories that have helped put him at No. 2 in career money earned at the event. • The 32-year-old, eight-time PGA TOUR winner is looking to reach the TOUR Championship by Coca-Cola for the first time since 2008, when he suffered playoff defeats at two of the four Playoffs events (The Barclays to Vijay Singh and the TOUR Championship to Camilo Villegas).
Ernie Els might have summed up the day better than anyone. He finished his 72, sat down for lunch and said, "The boys out there are going to have some fun."