By Brian Wacker, PGATOUR.COM
PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. -- Only once has there been a three-way tie going into the final round of THE PLAYERS Championship -- in 1985 Hale Irwin, Calvin Peete and D.A. Weibring shared the top spot before Peete shot 66 to win by three.
Don't be surprised if something similar happens this year. Tiger Woods and Sergio Garcia have both won here before. So has Stenson, who is a shot back of Woods, Garcia and the other leader rookie David Lingmerth.
Speaking of Lingmerth, only three times in the 39 previous years of this tournament has a player shot all four rounds in the 60s. Lingmerth is the only player to have done so through the first three this week.
The best finish by a rookie here? A tie for third by Fulton Allem in 1988 and Camilo Villegas in 2003.
As for Woods and Garcia, Woods is 52-for-56 on the PGA TOUR when leading or sharing the lead after 54 holes. Garcia? He's just 3-for-9.
Also of note: Woods has posted rounds of par or better 21 of 23 times on TOUR this season. With the wind kicked up and the golf course playing firm and fast by the time the final groups tee off, who knows, par might be good enough.
Stenson, meanwhile, has performed well here before -- when he won in 2009, he closed with a 66.
This season, Stenson already has a runner-up in Houston and a tie for eighth at Bay Hill on his resume.
Who do you think will win? Discuss below.
By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM
PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. -- Henrik Stenson acknowledges that he may have been more confident in 2009 when he shot a final-round 66 to come from five strokes back to win THE PLAYERS Championship.
Experience, though, has got to count for something, and Stenson hopes it works in his favor in this Sunday's final round. He'll start the final 18 holes one stroke off the lead held jointly by Tiger Woods and Sergio Garcia, who like Stenson are also former PLAYERS champs, and surprising PGA TOUR rookie David Lingmerth, a fellow Swede.
Stenson, who hasn't won on TOUR since that signature Sunday at THE PLAYERS, clearly relishes the opportunity.
"I might have been a little more confident in '09, and that final day was probably my best round of golf ever, given the circumstances of the tournament and how tough that golf course played," he said. "So we'll see, but I'm happy to be at the races. I've got more experience now than I had back then, so that should weigh out to something."
Stenson, who parred his final two holes in the weather-delayed third round on Sunday morning, took an immediate liking to the Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass. He tied for third in his 2006 debut and added a tie for 10th in 2008 before picking up the win. He tied for 15th a year ago, as well.
"I've got a great feeling playing this golf course," Stenson said. "I've liked it ever since I played the first time in '06. ... So I'll go out and do my job, and see if on the back nine if I can be in position and give myself a chance at it."
The back nine, though, has been problematic for Stenson this week. He's 11 under on the front and 1 over on the back, where the Swede closed with a 38 in the third round.
"Little bit disappointing finish on the back nine yesterday, but you know, back in at '09, when I won, I played really bad on a Saturday so it might be a good omen," Stenson said.
And the pars on the 17th and 18th Sunday morning were a positive for Stenson, who returned to the TPC Sawgrass property at 5:30 a.m. to prepare.
"You've still got to dig deep and prepare and do your normal stuff," Stenson explained. "It's not the easiest two holes to finish off in the morning at 7 o'clock, so I was quite pleased making two pars on 17 and 18. It's a wide-open tournament, probably 10 or 15 guys that can win this thing.
"So happy to be out there and just going to go back and rest a little bit and come back ready for this afternoon."
Henrik Stenson birdies the sixth hole at TPC Sawgrass on Saturday during the third round of THE PLAYERS Championship.
By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM
PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. -- Henrik Stenson wouldn't mind having that 4-wood he hit at the 11th hole back. Ditto for the approach at the 15th hole on Saturday.
But overall the Swede couldn't be too disappointed with his position after completing 52 holes of THE PLAYERS Championship. The 2009 champion will return to TPC Sawgrass to complete his third round, trailing his countryman, David Lingmerth, who has one hole to play, by just two strokes.
Stenson is tied with Sergio Garcia and Tiger Woods, who have yet to complete the 15th hole, at 10 under. All three are former PLAYERS champions, with Stenson's win coming in 2009 when he closed with a 66 to beat Ian Poulter by four strokes.
"It's a course I've always enjoyed playing," said Stenson, who also tied for third the first time he played the Stadium. "It's a tough golf course, and if you do the right things you get the reward, and otherwise you've got to have a short game, and I just like this golf course."
He likes the front nine better than the back this year, though. Stenson is 11 under on the first nine holes but 1 over through 25 on the back.
True to form, Stenson again was near-flawless on the front nine Saturday, making birdie putts of 3, 17 and 21 feet to grab the lead alone and then to share it. But errant approaches at Nos. 11 and 15 proved costly with his first two bogeys since Stenson made the turn in the second round.
What happened at the 11th was particularly frustrating as he thought about the wedge that ran back off the small elevated green at the par 5.
"I hit a great drive, hit a great 4-wood and just goes a little bit long and left, and you're left with a very difficult shot, come up a foot or two short and you're back down to your feet again," Stenson said. "Yeah, it does that to you. There was one or two decisions there on 11 and 15 that I might ... would have liked to do different in the future.
"But still at the races and playing all right."
Stenson preserved his share of second with a clutch par at the 16th hole, despite having to play away from the pin on the par 5 when his 7-iron plugged in the right corner of the pot bunker short of the green. His third shot landed on the green but he was "stymied," Stenson said, since he would have had to putt through the fringe to get to the hole.
"I had to flight it over the corner and got it up to about four feet and made that for par," Stenson said. "So I was pretty happy."
The key for Sunday?
"It's more down to me doing my stuff and staying mentally where I need to be and then committed to the shots, and it's always like that when you come into the back nine," Stenson said. "That's when it's going to be decided, and you might need to push a little bit or you're hopefully in a good position already."
Henrik Stenson drains a 20-footer for birdie at the par-5 ninth hole during the third round of THE PLAYERS Championship.
Click here to watch Stenson birdie the sixth hole to take the outright lead at THE PLAYERS Championship.
By Brian Wacker, PGATOUR.COM
PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. -- The final pairing of Tiger Woods and Sergio Garcia tees off at 2:40 p.m. on Saturday. Here's a closer look at each of them, plus who and what else to watch for this afternoon at TPC Sawgrass.
Webb Simpson (1:30 p.m. ET): The reigning U.S. Open champion seemed to turn the corner at Hilton Head, where he finished second after losing in a playoff. This week, he's third in fairways hit and enters Saturday five back.
Jason Dufner (1:30 p..m ET): He had six birdies and just one bogey in the second round and is one of the best ball-strikers in the game. He also finished sixth here two years ago.
Zach Johnson (1:50 p.m. ET): The last four finishes for Johnson here: T32, T22, T12, T2. See the trend? A couple late bogeys on Friday hurt, but Johnson is still in the mix four back.
Adam Scott (1:50 p.m. ET): Playing for the first time since his Masters victory, Scott is in position to go after his second PLAYERS title (he won here in 2004). He's just four shots back.
Hunter Mahan (2 p.m. ET): After struggling in his last few starts, Mahan has turned it around here, hitting 75 percent of his greens in regulation.
Matt Kuchar (2 p.m. ET): No player has ever won this tournament two years in a row. After a 66 Friday, Kuchar has a chance and enters the third round just four shots back.
Ryan Palmer (2:20 p.m. ET): The Texan is playing with a heavy heart after a longtime friend was killed in a car accident Thursday night. He's wearing the initials "CA" on his hat in honor of him.
Henrik Stenson (2:20 p.m. ET): The 2009 champion is in contention again after making two eagles in the second round (on the par-5 second and ninth holes). When he won here four years ago, he shot a final-round 66.
Lee Westwood (2:30 p.m. ET): The Englishman has finished fourth, fifth and sixth here. All that's missing is a win. He's the only player without a bogey through the first two rounds.
Tiger Woods (2:40 p.m. ET): It's been a dozen years since Woods has won here, but he said all facets of his game are clicking right now and it's showed so far with his best 36-hole start in his history here.
Sergio Garcia (2:40 p.m. ET): Like Woods, Garcia has won here before (in 2008), but he's struggled at times playing alongside the world No. 1 with five his last six rounds in the 70s when the two have been paired.
By Brian Wacker, PGATOUR.COM
D.A. Points' victory Sunday in Houston earned him more than just 500 FedExCup points. He's going to the Masters.
It will be the second trip down Magnolia Lane for Points, who last played at Augusta National in 2011. He missed the cut that year.
With the completion of the Shell Houston Open on Sunday, the field is now set for the year's first major (except for the winner of this week's Valero Texas Open, provided he's not already in the field).
Henrik Stenson also earned an invite, moving from 53rd to 42nd in the Official World Golf Rankings following his tie for second in Houston.
His best finish at Augusta National was a tie for 17th in 2007 and 2008.
Freddie Jacobson and Richard Sterne also secured spots in the field. Despite neither having played last week, both stayed in the top 50 in the OWGR at 47th and 49th, respectively.
Augusta, Ga., native Charles Howell III, however, will miss out for the fourth time in five years.
Howell needed to finish fifth or better in Houston. He tied for 10th.
Geoff Ogilvy will also be watching from home. The former U.S. Open champion missed the cut in Houston and dropped from 50th to 55th in the world.
By Melanie Hauser, PGATOUR.COM Correspondent
HUMBLE Texas -- No matter what happens, Henrik Stenson will walk away from the Shell Houston Open with the one thing he wanted more than anything this week.
An invitation to the Masters.
When his ball hit the 18th green and settled 9 feet from the pin on Sunday -- forget about when it hit the bottom of the cup -- Stenson knew that was it. He would earn enough world ranking points – inside the top 50 -- to get into the field for the first major of the year.
“Obviously very happy coming -- as I said to my caddie, walking up 18 no matter what, we're playing for a green jacket in a couple of weeks,’’ he said. “That will be nice. That was the main goal coming here. And when I played as well as I did, put myself in a good position, I'm still trying to do well here and then give myself a chance to win this tournament.
“Whether that's going to happen or not, we'll see, but very pleasing finish, four birdies in the last five holes. Some great shots coming down the stretch.’’
Stenson, who started the week ranked 53rd in the world, finished just before play was suspended during the final round due to a thunderstorm that hit the area.
The finish –- those four birdies in the last five holes -– and that 9-foot birdie on the 72nd hole made him the leader in the clubhouse at 15 under. Billy Horschel is still on the course at 15 under with one hole left, while D.A. Points is at 16 under with four holes to play. Jason Kokrak, who is looking for his first win, is 14 under through 15 holes, while Ben Crane, Stewart Cink and Kevin Chappell are at various points on the back nine at 13 under.
Stenson., whose last win came at THE PLAYERS Championship in 2009, finished T8 at last week’s rain-delayed Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by MasterCard. Now he’s potentially facing another Monday finish.
Stenson said he played sensible Sunday on his way to a closing 66.
“Didn't make too many mistakes,’’ Stenson said. “The only real bad one was on 15, bogeyed a par 5, hit a poor tee shot. Left it in the bad spot in the trap. Had the layup short of the hazard and couldn't get on the green. Only bad one of the day.
“But I came back straight off by hitting a 6-iron to half a foot on 14 and to great 3-wood to the green on 15 to birdie that one and then 17 and 18, four great shots and two birdies.’’
Now, Stenson waits. He’s done and has to wait for a dozen other players to finish either Sunday or Monday morning.
“I mean, I hope I get a chance to get back out there, it's a playoff at least,’’ he said. “I'll take that from here on when you're behind the year, take my chances in a playoff. We'll have to see.”
MARANA, Ariz. -- Steve Stricker won the first three holes in his match against Henrik Stenson and never looked back, cruising to a 5 and 4 win in the first round.
Stricker, the 2001 Accenture Match Play champ, will now play fellow American Nick Watney in the second round of the Snead bracket.
Stricker, a No. 4 seed, had won two holes on Wednesday before play was halted, then won the third hole when the match resumed Thursday. He lost the fourth hole with a bogey -- the only hole he lost in the match -- but bounced back with a birdie at the fifth hole when he rolled in a putt from 16-1/2 feet.
After that, he steadily built his lead, withnning the seventh and 13th holes with pars. Stenson, who won this event in 2007, had just one birdie in his 14 holes played.
"Henrik didn't play his best, and I played steady," Stricker said. "I didn't make really too many mistakes, didn't make a lot of birdies either, but just didn't make too many mistakes."
GREENSBORO, N.C. – Chris Couch and Henrik Stenson withdrew from the Wyndham Championship on Friday.
Stenson, who opened with a 68, withdrew before the start of the second round due to illness. He came to Greensboro ranked 112th in the FedExCup.
Couch injured his wrist and withdrew after 12 holes. Couch, who shot 70 in the first round, was ranked 153rd in the FedExCup entering the Wyndham Championship.