Meet the chase pack at Colonial
May 25, 2019
By Mike McAllister, PGATOUR.COM
Jordan Spieth's interview after Round 3 of Charles Schwab
FORT WORTH, Texas – Five players will go into Sunday’s final round of the Charles Schwab Challenge as the closest pursuers to 54-hole leader Kevin Na. Each is tied for second, two shots off the pace. Here’s a quick look at each of the five..
The 2016 champ at Colonial, looking to end a two-year victory drought, has been a one-man highlight reel this week by holing a number of lengthy putts. On Saturday, he opened with birdie putts of 29-5 feet and 20-7 feet, then drilled another birdie at the seventh hole from 37-2 feet before the putter cooled off a bit on the back nine.
In all, he has made 434-4 feet of putts through his first three rounds – his highest total in any single event of his PGA TOUR career. With 117 more feet on Sunday, he would set a TOUR record in the ShotLink era for most feet of putts made in a four-round event.
On putts outside of 25 feet, Spieth is 6 of 16 this week. Leave it to him, though, to offer the proper perspective.
“Out of a possible 1,000 feet of putts considering I’m 40 feet on every hole, so at some point some of them are going to go in,” Spieth said.
Spieth said he felt better about his ball-striking Saturday than he did the first two rounds, but he lost nearly a half-stroke to the field in Strokes Gained: Tee-to-Green.
“Tee to green isn’t where it needs to be by any means,” Spieth said. “It’s a work in progress, just as I said with my putting last year. So I have confidence in what we’re doing. It’s just about going out and trusting it."
“I have no reason not to trust it. I don’t need to finish high. I don’t need to win. There’s no reason for me not to trust every swing tomorrow.”
Last month, he won the RBC Heritage, his first TOUR victory. One of the perks of winning at Hilton Head is a plaid jacket.
One of the perks, of course, in winning the Charles Schwab Challenge is also a plaid jacket.
Until last month, Pan didn’t have a plaid jacket in his closet. Now he’s 18 holes away from having two.
“I never thought I would look good in it,” said Pan, who is from Chinese Taipei. “I look OK, I guess, and people say I good in the plaid jacket, so I’m happy with that. … There’s always room for another one, any jacket.”
A handful of players – including Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer -- have won both the RBC Heritage and Charles Schwab Challenge in their careers, but nobody has ever done it in the same season.
“I’m sure the experience at RBC helped me to get here,” Pan said after shooting a 68 that ended with bogeys on his final two holes. “I’ll feel more comfortable on Sunday, for sure.”
Another player who has won at Hilton Head is Jim Furyk; in fact, that’s his last TOUR win in 2015. He’s always considered Colonial as one of his favorite courses, moreso earlier in his career than now. Although he has seven top-10s, including a couple of seconds, he’s never been able to get his name on the Wall of Champions.
If he does so Sunday, he would be the tournament’s oldest winner, at age 49 years and 14 days. Tom Watson won in 1998 at age 48.
“It’s not a power-dominated golf course,” Furyk said about Colonial. “It’s one you have to work the ball around, get the ball in the fairway. When I’m paying well, I really enjoy this golf course.”
Furyk is certainly not thinking that his window of opportunity for getting back into the winner’s circle is closing anytime soon. After all, he does have three top-10s this season, including a runner-up at THE PLAYERS Championship.
“I’m not really looking at it as like the glass is half-empty, the hourglass has almost run out of sand,” Furyk said. “I’m really enjoying being in contention … This year has been kind of a new lease on life.”
He’s 20 years older than Furyk and has a considerably different game (i.e. power off the tee) but Finau is three years removed from his lone TOUR win, in 2016 at the Puerto Rico Open.
He’s been in contention many times, including a handful of top 10s at majors. But that second win has been more difficult to get than some expected, given his raw talent.
“It would be huge for me,” Finau said of a win Sunday. “I’m at a point in my career I don’t feel like I need any kind of validation. I’ve played some good golf at some big events … I’m looking forward to tomorrow."
On Saturday, Finau bogeyed the final hole – his first bogey on Colonial’s back nine this week. Until that point, he had made 22 consecutive pars on the back nine.
“I felt like pars were a good score out there,” Finau said. “… I grinded my teeth all day. It would’ve been nice to have that par save on the last.”
The Canadian shot a 65, tying for the second lowest round of the day. Since he finished earlier than the others, he’ll get to play in the final group with Na as he chases his second TOUR win (he won The RSM Classic in 2017).
Hughes is making just his third start in this event. He likes the fact that Colonial is not a shootout course.
“Because guys don’t go super-low here, it kind of entices me a little bit because you think your way around,” Hughes said. “Pars are good scores a lot of times. So that appeals to me a lot.”