WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W. Va. -- Brendon de Jonge has proven quite resilient this week.
He held a share of the lead starting the third round but had a horrible opening nine Saturday at The Old White TPC. After rolling in a 12-footer for birdie on the second hole, de Jonge bogeyed No. 3, doubled the fifth and dropped two more shots before turning in 38.
The big man from Zimbabwe did manage to right the ship on the back nine, though, with a couple of birdies to finish 54 holes at 5 under for the tournament. He was five strokes behind Anthony Kim, as a result.
"I couldn't get the wind right," said de Jonge, who finished third at The Greenbrier last year. "I hit a couple of bad shots in the wrong time and got a couple bad breaks.
"I did (hang in there). It's nice. It gives me a bit of an outside shot on (Sunday)."
Indeed it has. Granted, De Jonge, who went to school at Virginia Tech and has plenty of crowd support, bogeyed the first hole. But he's made four birdies since, including three straight to end the front nine, and currently is tied for second at 8 under, two behind Kim.
"I'll have to get off to a really good start to make a run at it," de Jonge had said on Saturday evening. Mission accomplished.
WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W. Va. -- What a difference a year makes.
In 2010, 77 players completed four rounds at The Greenbrier Classic and 46 of those shot four rounds in the 60s -- or in Stuart Appleby's case, three in the 60s and one 59.
Only four players have that opportunity on Sunday, though. They are Anthony Kim, Webb Simpson, Chris Couch and John Merrick.
Looks like the restoration of the Old White TPC has accomplished its mission to make the C.B. Macdonald/Seth Raynor creation more challenging.
What would a win today mean for Anthony Kim?
“I think it would actually mean more than any of the other wins I've had just because of the fact that I've come back from something,” said Kim, who has struggled since thumb surgery last year. “I didn't know where my golf game was going. Even up to this point, I'm excited about the rest of the year, the FedExCup playoffs, and the chance to win a golf tournament.”
If Kim, who will tee off at the bottom of the hour, is going to win, he’ll have to have a better final round than he’s had in most of his final rounds this year -- his final-round scoring average is 71.
That said, Kim’s game is driven by confidence and he has plenty of it going into the final round.
“It's absolutely on an upside,” Kim said Saturday night. “I can't tell you the last time that I ever played golf where I was not wanting to be on a golf course, but for the last six months before the British Open, I just did not want to be on the golf course.
“I didn't know where the ball was going, and I was just hoping it would bounce out of the trees. It wasn't a matter of it going in the rough, it was a matter of it bouncing in or out of bounds. People may think I'm exaggerating, but this is how tough this game got for me. Going back to the basics is really what helped my game. Without that, I would still be struggling.”
By simple approach Kim is trying not to get caught up in how far to hit the ball, he said. “If I have to hit it 170 yards, I just hit my 8-iron and don't think about anything else,” Kim said. “It's been a lot easier to hit golf shots that way.”
WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W. Va. -- A year ago, Stuart Appleby came from eight strokes off the pace to beat Jeff Overton by one shot at the inaugural Greenbrier Classic.
Of course, he had to shoot just the fifth 59 in PGA TOUR history to do it. And Appleby birdied his last three holes.
Judging by Sunday's early results at The Old White TPC, a similar come-from-behind win may not be in the offing. There are 54 players on the course right now and only 23 are under par for the day.
And of those 23, only four are 3 under or better. J.P. Hayes, who started at even par, is 5 under through 15 holes while Matt Bettencourt is 4 under through 10 holes and 5 under for the tournament.
Both Carl Pettersson and Garrett Willis are 3 under for the day. Pettersson has played 11 holes and is 4 under for the tournament while Willis, who started the day even, is 3 under through 13 holes.
They’ll all be done way before Anthony Kim and Scott Stallings tee off in the day’s final group at 1:50 p.m. Kim is 10 under after shooting 62 Saturday while Stallings is another stroke behind.
The biggest reason Anthony Kim is atop the leaderboard entering today’s final round: Ball-striking. In the third round, he hit 17 greens in regulation and tied his career-low with a 62. For the week, Kim has hit 85 percent of his greens -- up from his season average of 61 percent.
And should Kim, currently 92nd in the FedExCup standings, go on to win he’ll move inside the top 30 for the first time since the sixth week of the season when he ranked 26th.
Similarly, Jimmy Walker, who is three shots back, has also had a good week with his irons. He hit all 18 greens in the third round and averaged just 24 feet, 3 inches on those approach shots . That was a big improvement from his first and second round when he hit 12 and 11 greens, respectively.
Maybe the most impressive numbers belong however to Scott Stallings, who is just one back and will play in that final group with Kim. Stallings is 11 under in his last 42 holes with 11 birdies and zero bogeys. His last bogey came on the third hole (his 12th) of the first round.
By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM
WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W. Va. -- Scott Stallings couldn't believe his eyes.
The rookie, who had just tied for 22nd at the RBC Canadian Open, was on the charter plane from Vancouver that landed at Greenbrier Valley Airport at about 4 o'clock on Monday morning. The sun was still about two hours from rising over the West Virginia hills but even so, about 30 people were on hand to greet the players who had come to play in The Greenbrier Classic.
"It's one of those things like, man, they definitely care about the players and they want 'em to have a good experience and they want 'em to come back," said Stallings, who has also enjoyed the nightly concerts and other amenities at the resort. "I have no complaints whatsoever. I've had an absolute blast, and I can't wait to come back."
Of course, Stallings would like nothing better than to come back as the defending champion -- and the 26-year-old who lives in Knoxville has given himself that chance after Saturday's bogey-free round of 66. Stallings, who trails Anthony Kim by one stroke, will play in the final group on Sunday for the first time in his career.
"I played within myself," Stallings said. "I guess I did all the
things that you're suppose to do: I kept the ball play; I kept the
ball below the hole; I hit it to the fat part of the greens when I
didn't have a good angle, even though I really didn't want to.
"Hats off to my caddie. He did an unbelievable job as far as just keeping me patient. You see all the low scores and, definitely when I had opportunities to make birdies, he did a great job as far as kind of pulling me back a little and making me play a little smarter. It was really good day."
Stallings was in the hunt earlier this year at the Transitions Championship. He finished a career-best solo third there -- three strokes behind the champion, Gary Woodland, and two behind Webb Simpson, his playing partner in the penultimate group in that final round. Ironically, Woodland and Simpson will be playing a group ahead of Stallings on Sunday
"So it's kind of funny to see all those names on the leaderboard," Stallings said. "Kind of eerily similar to Tampa with all the names that were up there."
Stallings said the final round of the Transitions Championship was a learning experience. Simpson grabbed the lead early, and Stallings felt like he got caught up in chasing him. On Sunday, he hopes to play within himself and let things happen.
"That's all stuff that takes care of itself," Stallings said. "I
mean, you could play really good and not win. In Tampa I felt like
I played great and I didn't win. Gary and Webb both played
awesome and I felt like I got beat.
"At the end of the day, you just do as you possibly can. If it's good enough, that's awesome. But I was telling the guys outside, as a little kid watching the PGA TOUR and stuff like that, I mean, I was that guy that Sundays, that's all I did.
“To have an opportunity to play out here with the best players in the world is a dream come true every single day. It's my rookie year. I am kind of three-fourths of the way through, and I'm sitting there and just kind of pinching myself every single day to have the opportunity to play out here. I love it."
By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM
WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W. Va. -- Webb Simpson started the third round of the Greenbrier Classic tied for the lead.
By the time he'd played 13 holes and waited out a 13-minute weather delay, though, the former Wake Forest All-American found himself four strokes off the pace. Simpson didn't give up, though, and a pair of 5-footers for birdie on the last two holes gave him a momentum boost for the final round.
"It was huge," Simpson acknowledged. "It was a struggle all day. Really didn't feel like I played that bad, just was a really tricky day for us in the last group with the wind. So to finish birdie-birdie was huge heading into tomorrow."
Simpson, who has already finished second twice this season -- including a playoff loss in New Orleans, will play in the penultimate group on Sunday with Gary Woodland. The two trail Anthony Kim by two strokes and Scott Stallings by one.
Interestingly, Woodland beat Simpson by a stroke at the Transitions Championship when Simpson bogeyed the final hole. The victory was the first of Woodland's career. Simpson hopes his own breakthrough comes Sunday, and he worked hard to stay within striking distance after the third round.
"I just kept telling my caddie, We got to stay patient," Simpson said. "Can't get ahead of ourselves. If we just kind of hang around, we'll have a shot to win. I know 10 under was leading pretty much all day. We knew it was getting away from us. Just had to stay patient and understand that I have a good shot tomorrow."
Three rounds down, one to go for Anthony Kim. He’ll take a one-shot lead to the final round at The Greebrier Classic, where he’s trying to win for the first time since last year’s Shell Houston Open.
Kim has a history of being streaky good and that’s what he was Saturday with a 62, matching the low round of the week. It’s also a season-best for Kim, who has only made it to nine final rounds this year. Is this the week he turns it around? If he plays anything like he did on Saturday, then yes. The most promising sign for Kim: He hit 17 greens in regulation in the third round.
Meanwhile, Scott Stallings is one shot back, while rookie Gary Woodland, looking for his second win of the season, is two back after a 67 Saturday. Also at 8 under is Webb Simpson, who has played extremely well in his last five starts.
By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM
WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W. Va. -- A new Scotty Cameron putter paid dividends for Bill Haas on Saturday during the third round of The Greenbrier Classic.
Haas needed just 24 putts to shoot a 65 that propelled him 19 spots up the leaderboard and into a tie for third. The former Wake Forest All-American will start the final round three strokes off the pace set by Anthony Kim, with a chance to win the third PGA TOUR event of his career.
"I just wanted to try something new," Haas said of the change to a putter that was “almost complete opposite” to the one he had been employing. "Haven't been good on the greens, so it's just something for us to try."
Haas made six birdies on Saturday, including four in a back-nine 32. He birdied both par 5s, holing a 20-foot chip at No. 12 after flubbing the one before it and getting up and down from a greenside bunker at the 17th. The other four birdies came from inside 16 feet.
"I kept it pretty much in front of me and made a couple nice putts, which you have to do," Haas said. "These greens a rolling pretty nice, and you got to take advantage of your chances because there's definitely a few pins that you just can't get to on these greens. So fortunately, made a couple and didn't have too many mistakes."
Haas won two times last season -- and nearly was successful in his title defense at the Bob Hope Classic before losing in a playoff. That was one of five top-10s the lanky South Carolinian has put together this year.
He’s got a great opportunity for another on Sunday at The Old White TPC>
"No matter what I'm going to have to shoot a good number," Haas said. "It's just nice to be in that position and have some sort of shot. Hopefully I can just go out and get it under par, and if I have a chance at the end, then that'll be a bonus."
Thanks to five birdies on the back nine Anthony Kim shot his best round of the season Saturday at The Old White TPC. As a result, his 62 also gives him the clubhouse lead at 10 under through 54 holes.
Just two weeks ago, Kim put himself in contention at the British Open, where he tied for fifth. But mostly his season has been up and down since coming back from thumb surgery last year.
Saturday, however, Kim’s ball-striking was nearly perfect -- he hit all but one green in regulation -- and he took just 27 putts, at one point making birdie on four holes in a five-hole stretch. All his birdie putts came from inside 10 feet.
“I was just hitting smart golf shots,” Kim said. “I was starting to think my way around the course instead of just get up to a tee and the fairways are 40 yards wide and the rough is not that penal and just try to hit it as hard as I can. That's not how you play golf. Usually it doesn't work out.
“But I started hitting some fades off the tee, which this course you need to do, and made a couple putts. Hit the smart shot, even not going at a couple pins, which is hard for me to do. Hit it 15 feet right of the pin and be okay with it.
“So I got away with some poor swings because of some good lines. Hopefully I can do that tomorrow.”
Sunday should be a big test for the three-time PGA TOUR champ who ranks 92nd in the FedExCup. Only twice this year has he broken 70 in the final round, which is something he’ll likely need to do to pick up his first victory since last year’s Shell Houston Open.