By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM
ATLANTA -- Steve Stricker's task certainly isn't easy.
But after three rounds of the TOUR Championship by Coca-Cola, the man who had expected to be spending this week bow-hunting for elk in Colorado has played his way into position to win the FedExCup.
Granted, he needs some things to fall into place. But if Stricker, who starts Sunday's final round alone in third, can win the TOUR Championship and Tiger Woods -- currently 14 shots back in a tie for 26th -- doesn't stage a rally for the ages, this ageless 46-year-old from Wisconsin will be $10 million richer.
Stricker trails Henrik Stenson, who started the week ranked second to Woods in the FedExCup standings, by six strokes. At one point on Saturday, the Swede led the field by nine strokes but he gave some back with a 38 on the back nine.
Stenson is certainly in the driver's seat. But there on 18 holes remaining and a big pot of gold waiting at the end of the round in case anyone needed extra motivation.
"It's going to be pretty tough," said Stricker, who came in ranked sixth in the standings. "He's playing great. It's going to have to be some ridiculously low by someone, and he's going to have to stumble, which I'm not seeing happen just because of the way he's been playing the last half of the year.
"He's played so well, and he's been so consistent and hit the ball so solidly that I don't see that happening tomorrow."
Stricker leads the elite field of 30 in fairways hit at East Lake, although that hasn't translated into quite as many greens as he might have liked. Particularly on Saturday as the rain that prompted tournament officials to move tee times up finally arrived on the back nine.
"It's tough to get the ball close on a few of these pin locations," Stricker said. "A few shots, I was up on the green watching Zach come in with the pitch shots. There was big bounces to them. They were skidding a little bit with the rain.
"It was tough to get it close at times. You had to hit an exceptional shot to have a set up for a birdie shot. It's going to be hard to hit a low number, I think."
Stricker would like to see his putter be a bit more cooperative, as well. With soft greens and sunny skies forecast for Sunday, though, he can afford to be aggressive and see what happens.
"I let a few shots get away on the greens again," he said. "Three-putted a couple times, missed another short one in there. ... But it was a tough day again. The wind really wasn't much of a factor, but the rain was just nagging enough that it affects how far your ball flies. ...
"So tomorrow looks good weather-wise. That's all good."
By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM
ATLANTA -- Adam Scott didn't get much sleep on Friday night as he battled what was likely an ill-time case of the flu.
"I wasn't feeling top drawer last night and had a rough night, one of those ones," Scott reported. "... And didn't feel too flush this morning. So had to get some help. I feel a lot better now, but it was pretty rough this morning."
Help came in the form of an IV administered in the East Lake clubhouse prior to his 9 a.m. tee time with Henrik Stenson and Jordan Spieth. The fluids enabled him to play but the resulting 74 was hardly the round Scott had hoped for after starting the day alone in second and four strokes off Stenson's lead.
"It was very disappointing to wake up feeling like that," said Scott, who now trails by nine. "When I woke up this morning, I definitely wouldn't have been going. I was really flat and not in a good way. So it was just enough to get me going, and hopefully I can rest up tonight and feel better tomorrow."
Scott got off to a terrible start on Saturday with three bogeys and a double bogey producing a front-nine 40. He managed to steady the ship on the back nine with eight pars and a birdie at the 17th hole but by then the damage was done.
The weary Scott, who was bidding to bolster his PGA TOUR Player of the Year hopes, likely is too far back now to impact the FedExCup battle despite starting the week ranked No. 3 after adding The Barclays to his Masters title.
"I felt like I could have made a run today with some good golf," Scott said. "It went completely the other way. When your body's feeling so lethargic and heavy, the club feels like it weighs 60 pounds, and it was just hard work to get anything moving.
"All your rhythm and everything is off when your body is feeling so poor. You know, it was a battle for me today, and I'm disappointed that I wasn't at 100 percent to try and give Henrik a shake and stick with him."
Stenson felt the same way.
"Obviously, I feel for my playing partner Adam because I heard before the round that he wasn't well, and he could only pitch up like 20 minutes before or something, and you could clearly see that he was not in a good state physically today," the Swede said.
"So obviously ... the battle I was thinking I was going to have with him kind of went away a little bit due to his form physically today."
By Fred Albers, PGATOUR.COM Correspondent
ATLANTA -- Saturday was about concentration, not just physical execution. It's so easy to lose focus during rainy weather, but Henrik Stenson wanted no part of any excuses.
His scorecard showed a trio of bogeys on the back nine, but it would be a mistake to consider those holes as serious flaws in Stenson’s game. In fact, those holes might have been his biggest accomplishments in the third round. They were at least as important as the five birdies he carded.
Each of those three bogeys could have been double or worse, but Stenson was able to minimize the damage. When grips get slick and fairways are soggy, bogeys are going to be made.
The beauty of Stenson’s round was his ability to maintain focus and mitigate disaster. He started the day with a four-shot lead, and left the course with the same four-shot advantage.
Caddies: Players lean so hard on their caddies in wet weather. It's their job to not just get yardage and map course strategy, and they have to keep the equipment dry. Watch as players exit the course on a rainy day -- they are dry. Now, look at the caddies as they leave the course. They are wet and mangy workers. Caddies sacrifice their own comfort to keep their players dry.
Splits: Stenson has been wonderful on the front nine and rather ordinary over the remainder of the course. He is 13 under on the front side, and 2 over on the back. Stenson's numbers on the second hole are easy to tally. He has birdied that par 3 in every round for a total of six strokes. (Watch him birdie the par-3 second on Saturday).
Fairways: Tiger Woods has hit 18 of 42 fairways this week, which ranks near last in the 30-man field. He had a right-hand miss working on the front nine in the third round, when he hit only a third of his fairways.
Players struggled out of the Bermuda rough. It only measures two inches long, but the grass gets between the ball and clubface, making it very difficult to control distance. Stenson missed half his fairways Saturday and struggled just to make bogeys on three of his final five holes.
Putting: Steve Stricker is resilient. He's had several chances to fold this week and yet remains in contention. He had a pair of three-putt bogeys early in the tournament, but he's rebounded. He started the back nine with a bogey and double-bogey on Friday and kept his concentration. Stricker was challenged again on Saturday with short missed putts on the 10th and 13th holes, and answered with birdies at both the 14th and 15th. He has made a birdie 33 percent of the time following bogey this week.
Lefty: Phil Mickelson gave fans an exciting moment at the second hole when his flop shot missed the green, but followed up the mistake with a chip-in par. That might have been the highlight of his day. Mickelson expected to charge on Saturday, but was stuck on neutral because of 30 putts. He said he was mad and wet leaving the scoring area. Only one thing would put him in a good mood: A victory by his alma mater Arizona State against Stanford on Saturday night.
Fred Albers is a course reporter for SiriusXM PGA TOUR Radio. For more information on SiriusXM PGA TOUR Radio, click here.
ATLANTA -- No one has played better golf over the last two months than Henrik Stenson. The first 54 holes at East Lake have only ben an extension of that.
Stenson shot a 1-under 69 Saturday at East Lake and leads by four over Dustin Johnson in the TOUR Championship by Coca-Cola.
At one point, it wasn't even that close.
Stenson's lead ballooned to as much as nine midway through the third round of the season finale, where tee times were moved up because of bad weather in the forecast.
When the rain arrived, so did the bogeys for Stenson, who made four of them over his final nine holes, including one on the final hole. Stenson's 45-footer for birdie lipped out on the par 3 and he missed a 5-foot putt coming back.
Still, Stenson is in position to win for not only the second time in three starts, but a victory would also give him the FedExCup trophy and the $10 million bonus.
Steve Stricker, meanwhile, is alone in third at 5 under, while four others are tied for fourth.
Tiger Woods, who came into the week No. 1 in FedExCup points, broke par for the first time this week on Saturday, shooting a 1-under 69.
He hasn't been a factor all week, though, and is four spots out of last place and would need Stenson to falter in order to win his third FedExCup.
By Brian Wacker, PGATOUR.COM
ATLANTA -- It took three days, but Tiger Woods finally broke par at East Lake, shooting a 1-under 69 Saturday.
Not that it moved him up the leaderboard much.
Woods trails leader Henrik Stenson by 14 shots, and the rain was just about the only thing Woods beat.
"I didn't hit it very good today," said Woods, who had two birdies and one bogey. "I hit everything to the right or flipped it left, but I putted better."
Woods hit just five fairways and 11 greens in regulation in the third round of the TOUR Championship by Coca-Cola, where only once has he finished outside the top 2 in his last five trips here. That was last year when he tied for eighth.
His worst result at East Lake came in 2003 when he finished in 26th after failing to break par in any of his four rounds. Through 54 holes, Woods is tied for 26th with only four players separating him from last place.
A day after saying he "ran out of gas" coming down the stretch of his second round, Woods reiterated that it has been a long season.
He hasn't been the only one to play a lot of golf, however. Stenson, for example, is making his 25th start of the season between two tours. This is Woods' 17th event.
"We're asking a lot for the guys to play from basically British Open on," Woods said. "Some guys have obligations to play in Canada the following week, and they get into Bridgestone, the PGA, and the Playoffs, and the Americans, Internationals flip years. The Europeans got the Ryder Cup on the back end. So it's a lot."
So is Woods' deficit here.
With Stenson holding a big lead and assured of the FedExCup should he hold on to win, Woods has one goal in mind before going to the Presidents Cup in two weeks.
"I want to go in there playing well and shooting some good scores," he said. "The goal is to go out and shoot a low round tomorrow and see where the chips fall."
ATLANTA -- The rain is holding off but Henrik Stenson continues to pour it on during the third round of the TOUR Championship by Coca-Cola.
Stenson has just made four more birdies on the front nine -- bringing his total on that segment in the first three rounds to 13 -- to open a nine-stroke lead on his nearest competitor, Dustin Johnson. Stenson is 14 under through 45 holes in his debut at East Lake.
Zach Johnson, Billy Horschel, Steve Stricker and Justin Rose are tied for third at 4 under. Stricker and Zach Johnson are 1 under for the day, through 12 and 11 holes, respectively, while Rose and Horschel are even through 10.
Stenson came into the week ranked second in the FedexCup while Zach Johnson, who won the BMW Championship on Monday, is fifth. Either can win the FedExCup and its $10 million bonus if they win the TOUR Championship on Sunday but Stenson certainly is in a commanding position.
Adam Scott, who was second and trailed by four at the start of the day, is battling flu-like symptoms that required an IV before he teed off. The reigning Masters champ, who ranked second in the FedExCup and was bidding to bolster his claim for Player of the Year, is 5 over on his first nine holes.
Tiger Woods, who came into the week top-seeded in the FedExCup, is on the verge of breaking par for the first time this week. He's 1 under for the day through 16 holes and 3 over for the tournament.
By PGATOUR.COM staff
ATLANTA -- Henrik Stenson's phenomenal play at the TOUR Championship by Coca-Cola is having an impact on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean, as well.
Johan Carlsson, the 27-year-old Swede who leads the Challenge Tour's Kazakhstan Open, says he has been inspired by his countryman's performance. The San Diego State grad fired a 67 at Nurtau Golf Club on Saturday to open a two-stroke advantage.
Stenson came to East Lake ranked second in the FedExCup and currently leads the TOUR Championship by an impressive seven strokes through four holes in the third round. Stenson, who also leads the European Tour's Race to Dubai, won the Deutsche Bank Championship three weeks ago and has finished third or better in four of his last six starts.
“I have thought at about him, too, to be honest,” Carlsson said. “If he can do it we can all do it. I met him about a year ago and he’s just a normal guy. We’re all just normal guys that just manage to keep our mind in a good state on the golf course.
“It’s amazing what he is doing at the moment, and inspiring. He’s Swedish and he’s not a wonder-child, like Tiger Woods was. Hard work and working on the right things, no matter where you are in your career, can change everything and you can just start playing well.”