By Fred Albers, PGATOUR.COM Correspondent
IRVING, Texas -- Keegan Bradley was a perfect 3-for-3 from greenside bunkers but the shot he faced at the 17th hole was, by far, the most difficult at the HP Byron Nelson Championship on Saturday.
Bradley was in the front left bunker, playing to a back hole location, 87 feet away. Bradley walked down into the bunker and repeatedly practiced a very vertical swing. He bent his knees, generated full clubhead speed and splashed the ball out of the bunker. It landed some 10 feet beyond the cup, sat for just a fraction of a second and then, with an audible “whiz,” the ball spun down the hill like somebody had pulled the string on a top.
The gallery roared as the ball backed up until halting 3 feet below the cup. Bradley went on to par the hole and later said, “that was a Keegan Bradley shot. (Phil) Mickelson can learn from me now.”
Putting: Sang-Moon Bae took just 26 putts in the third round but that total included a miss from 31 inches at the fifth hole. It follows a trend. Bae is ranked 31st in strokes gained-putting, a very respectable total. However, that ranking also includes some puzzling numbers. Bae is 161st in three-putt avoidance and ranks 146th on 3-foot putts. He is also 177th on TOUR from 5 feet. Even more puzzling, Bae leads the TOUR making 82 percent from 8 feet. Very rarely do you find so much inconsistency from someone who ranks so highly in strokes gained-putting.
Par 5s: Bradley carries a one-stroke lead into the final round and he can thank his play on par 5s for that lead. There are only two par 5s on the TPC Four Seasons course. Bradley has played them a total of six times through three rounds and he is 7 under on those holes. He has birdied each of the par 5s each round, with the exception of the seventh hole. Bradley eagled the seventh on Thursday.
Par 3s: The par 3s showed their teeth on Saturday. In the first two rounds, only once had a par 3 been stretched in excess of 200 yards and that came at the second on Friday with the hole placed 214 yards from the tee. PGA TOUR officials used the back tees on Saturday. The second hole played 223 yards, the fifth was 168, the 13th checked in at 183 and the 17th hole measured 203 yards. With swirling winds, club selection was very difficult those par 3s.
Plodder: Jimmy Johnson usually caddies for Steve Stricker but with Sticker’s limited schedule, Johnson has worked for Harris English at times this year and is impressed. He watched English play his third round and described the Georgia graduate as “a plodder with fire.” What a wonderful description of English who is rapidly gaining the reputation as a “player to watch” on the PGA TOUR. Johnson will caddie for English at next week’s Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial.
Putting: Tom Gillis is having an average putting year but a great week on the greens. He ranks 101st in strokes gained-putting this season but is much better at TPC Four Seasons. Gillis has had putting rounds of 28-24-23 to lead the tournament and ranks first this week in strokes gained-putting. He is also enjoying a great week of bunker play. Gillis is 6-for-6 out of the sand, including a hole-out from 46 feet for birdie on the 18th.
Fred Albers is a course reporter for SiriusXM PGA TOUR Radio. For more information on SiriusXM PGA TOUR Radio, click here