Daily Wrap-up: Rd. 3, Hyundai Tournament of Champions

January 08, 2011
Staff and wire reports

KAPALUA, Hawaii -- Robert Garrigus recovered from an atrocious start Saturday by holing a 50-foot eagle putt on the 18th hole to join Steve Stricker and Jonathan Byrd in the lead at the Tournament of Champions.

Third-round coverage
VETERAN SAVVY: Robert Garrigus has the length and Jonathan Byrd is riding a wave of good fortune, but the experienced Steve Stricker is the favorite Sunday. Story
KUCHAR VS. KONA: On a windy day at Kapalua, Matt Kuchar was thrilled to hit 17 greens in regulation and shoot 66. Story
NO RUST HERE: Carl Petterson is in contention despite not having played an event in two months, a testament to an offseason of practice. Story

In the notorious Kona wind -- the toughest at Kapalua -- Garrigus chunked a 4-iron into a hazard to open with double bogey and followed with a bogey to quickly fall out of the lead. By the end of the third round, he was back where he started.

The eagle gave Garrigus a 4-under 69 and gave him a good chance to become the first player since Tiger Woods in 2000 to win the season opener after winning the final event of the previous year.

Stricker turned an impossible lie into an unlikely birdie on the 12th hole, avoiding a loose piece of grass behind his ball in the bunker by hitting a 4-iron to 5 feet. It was part of a five straight birdies that carried him to an 8-under 65, a score he didn't think was possible in wind that makes the Plantation Course play at its longest.

Byrd, who has been around the lead all week, was steady as usual. He nearly holed a wedge on the 16th and settled for a tap-in birdie, but his pitch to the 18th was just long enough that it trickled down a slope and rolled 50 feet away. His two-putt par gave him a 67.

All three were at 18-under 201, three shots clear of Carl Pettersson, who had a 71.

Three Americans atop the leaderboard at least improved the odds of ending a dubious streak at Kapalua, where international players have won the Tournament of Champions the last eight times.

Matt Kuchar had the lead at one point by making seven birdies in a nine-hole stretch, but he played even par over the final six holes for a 66 and wound up four shots out of the lead. U.S. Open champion Graeme McDowell shot a 68 as he continued to get used to mountain golf atop the Pacific Ocean. He was six shots behind, along with Bill Haas (69).

Garrigus looked as though he might not break the way he started. His caddie told him to slow down his swing, and a birdie on the third hole settled him down.

"I thought getting back to under par was going to be good for me," Garrigus said. "That was a hell of a way to end the round."

Stricker began making his move with a birdie on the ninth hole, but the 12th was his shot of the tournament.

"A do-or-die swing," he said.

Shot of the Day

Robert Garrigus bangs it in from 56 feet away for an eagle at the 18th hole during Round 3 of the Hyundai Tournament of Champions.

He had a grass divot left of his ball in the bunker, which was no problem. There was a 2-inch piece of grass behind the ball, and he called for a rules official to ask if he could move it, deep down knowing that he couldn't. What he didn't realize, however, was Stricker could not touch the grass piece at any point in his swing.

From 178 yards into the wind, he hit 4-iron that he brought from the inside and picked the ball cleanly from the sand. It caught the left side of the green and settled 5 feet away.

"You hit a shot like that, you want to make the putt," he said. "That was the topper."

He kept right on going, making a super fast putt on the 13th, using his superb wedge game for easy birdie putts on the 14th and 15th, and ending with another good pitch to 3 feet on the 18th.

Plantation Course: Round 3
The par-4 14th hole was the easiest with a Saturday scoring average of 3.375.
The par-4 1st hole was the toughest with a Saturday scoring average of 4.469.
About the leaders
• Second-round leader Robert Garrigus, winner of the 2010 Childrens Miracle Network Classic, struggled out of the gate on Saturday, posting a double bogey on the par-4 first hole and a bogey on the par-3 second. He was spectacular the rest of the way, battling back with birdies at Nos. 3, 4, 9, 14 and 15 and holing a 56-foot, 10-inch eagle putt on the par-5 18th for a 4-under 69.
• Garrigus only other lead/co-lead on the PGA TOUR came at the 2010 St. Jude Classic, where he entered the final round with a two-stroke lead over Robert Karlsson before a final-round 1-over 71 and eventual playoff loss to Lee Westwood.
• Jonathan Byrd has now held the lead heading into the final round of a PGA TOUR event twice. In his first attempt, he carried the lead on to victory at the 2004 B.C. Open.
• Byrd, a four-time winner on the PGA TOUR, earned his ticket to Kapalua with a victory at the 2010 Justin Timberlake Shriners Hospitals for Children Open, becoming the first player to win a playoff on the PGA TOUR with a hole-in-one.
• Steve Stricker turned in five birdies in a row (Nos. 11-15) en route to an 8-under 65, moving into a three-way tie for the lead at 18-under 201. Last season, the longest birdie streak was six in a row, turned in by eight players.
• Stricker's 65 falls just one stroke shy of his best effort at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions, a final-round 64 in 2008 (lost a playoff to Daniel Chopra).
• Stricker has now held the lead heading into the final round on the PGA TOUR 12 times, most recently carrying the lead on to victory at the 2010 John Deere Classic. In 11 previous attempts, he has gone on to win five times.

"I didn't think an 8-under round was out there," he said. "But as I got into a roll on the back side, I kept wanting more."