The Upshot: Valspar Championship, Rd. 3
March 15, 2014
By Jeff Shain, PGATOUR.COM
- After both being on the clock Saturday, Kevin Na and Robert Garrigus will again be the final pair Sunday. (Greenwood/Getty Images)
PALM HARBOR, Fla. – Robert Garrigus walked the 50 yards or so up to the 14th green at Innisbrook, walked back to his ball in the rough and began to assess his situation.
Bad move. Or at least, a bad time.
Already on the clock, the Valspar Championship leader was given a bad-time assessment that put him one step from a penalty stroke.
“The first time in 17 years as a professional that I’ve ever got a bad time on the golf course,” said Garrigus, who saw what once was a four-shot lead shrink to one by the time he completed his 1-under 70 Saturday.
Playing partner Kevin Na also incurred a bad time on the previous hole, when he spent too long assessing a swirling breeze on the 13th tee. It wasn’t until the final hole that the duo was taken off the clock.
While neither man disputed the bad time, they also suggested they’d become victims of circumstances.
It began when Pat Perez lost his tee shot left of the fairway at No.3, requiring a return to the tee while Garrigus and Na waited. Then while Perez and Justin Rose put things into high gear, Garrigus needed a ruling at No.5.
Two holes later, Garrigus and Na were put on the clock.
“We were basically 10 minutes behind,” Na acknowledged. “Yeah, we were out of position but was that really our fault? No.”
Said Garrigus: “When Pat is playing bad, he takes about four seconds to hit each shot. It’s kind of unfair. … It wasn’t that bad. I’ve played a lot slower in twosomes before.”
Na has carried a reputation as a slowpoke for years, most infamously while paired with Matt Kuchar in THE PLAYERS Championship’s final round in 2010. That was during a period when he struggled to commit to making a swing.
This time, though, Na even got the thumbs-up from the speedy Garrigus. “Kevin has gotten a lot faster,” he said.
Na’s effort to speed up the pace might have cost him a birdie at the par-3 17th, where he missed a 15-foot try when he wanted another look at his line.
“We weren’t finalizing the putt,” he said. “I’m about to back off, and Kenny [Harms, his caddie] goes, ‘You’d better go.’ I kind of peeked out in the fairway and there’s Gary [Young, rules official] on the cart with a little clock. OK, we’ve got to go.”
Scott Langley chips in for birdie on No. 13 at Valspar
Bounceback: Scott Langley’s day got off to an auspicious start, taking an unplayable after his opening tee shot on the way to two opening bogeys. But he bogeyed only one more the rest of the way, using a strong back nine for a 69 that left him four shots back.
“I certainly struggled in the ballstriking early,” he said, “but my short game was definitely my insurance policy today.
“I just stayed patient and knew I was playing well. If I just kept giving myself chances, I knew I could make a couple [of birdies]. Before I knew it, I made four on the back.”
Langley drained a 28-foot birdie putt at the par-4 10th, then added consecutive birdies at Nos. 13-14. His best came toward the end, though, with a “perfect” hybrid into a gentle breeze at the par-3 17the that came to rest about 4 feet from the flagstick.
“Probably my best swing of the day for sure,” he said. “As soon as I hit it, I just felt like it was going to be really good.”SATURDAY'S BEST PHOTOS Click here for the complete third-round photo gallery
Nothing to brag about: While several players this week have a personal interest in how their college fares in all the conference basketball tournaments being played, Luke Donald is keeping a low profile.
For one thing, basketball never held much appeal during Donald’s days at Northwestern. And then there’s the Wildcats’ NCAA Tournament history.
They have none. Even with the brackets now bloated to 68 teams, Northwestern is the only team from a major conference that has never received a bid in the tournament’s 75-year existence.
“I mentioned it to a few guys his week,” Donald said after Saturday’s 67 left him five shots behind Garrigus. “Not many people realize that stat, so maybe I shouldn’t mention it anymore.”
Wind guard: Justin Rose took note of the pin positions for Sunday’s finale, suggesting that PGA TOUR officials are expecting winds to kick up again.
“The pin placements are soft,” said Rose (69), facing a three-shot gap to catch Garrigus. “A lot of them are middle of the green – 8, 9, 10 [paces] from the edge. That might make a comeback more difficult, because you can play to the middle of the green and give yourself looks for birdie.”
Forecasts call for winds gusting up to 18 mph in the afternoon, with morning sun giving way to clouds. When 20 mph winds greeted golfers on Thursday, just 11 scores broke 70.
“We’ll just have to wait and see what the weather’s like,” Rose said. “If it’s really, really tough, then obviously holding on and hitting to the middle of the green is not an easy thing either.”
It remains to be seen whether Rose will continue to "#loftup" with his 3-wood as he did on Saturday or if he'll look for a lower ball flight in the Sunday winds.
Call of the Day: Dennis Paulson from PGA TOUR Radio on SiriusXM and PGATOUR.COM calls John Senden's 32-foot birdie putt on No. 18 to cap a 7-under 64 Saturday at the Valspar Championship.
Live play-by-play coverage of the final round streams from 12-6 p.m. ET Sunday on PGATOUR.COM.
Stats corner: Sunday will mark the fourth time Garrigus has taken at least a share of the lead into the final round. Each of the previous three resulted in Garrigus finishing second, most notoriously when he lost a playoff to Lee Westwood at the 2010 FedEx St. Jude Classic after a triple bogey on the final hole of regulation. … Na ran his bogey-free streak to 45 holes before missing a 14-foot par save at No. 10. It remains his only bogey this week after he saved par the other 17 occasions in which he’s missed the green. … Retief Goosen’s 64 came without a birdie on any of the Copperhead’s four par-5s. It was just the sixth time since the PGA TOUR began keeping detailed stats in 1983 that anyone had posted a 64 while gaining no ground on any of four par-5s. … Boo Weekley, last year’s Valspar runner-up, was one of eight men classified as MDF by a Saturday cut. … Of the top 10 players after 54 holes, Garrigus and Italy’s Matteo Manassero (71) were the only ones who didn’t break 70 on Saturday.