Sunday shootout on tap at Barbasol Championship
July 20, 2019
By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM
Kelly Kraft's Round 3 highlights from Barbasol
NICHOLASVILLE, Ky. – Those gigantic electronic leaderboards that dot the landscape on the Champions Course at Keene Trace Golf Club this week can’t be missed.
And every time Kelly Kraft looked at one Saturday after making yet another birdie in his course-record round of 61, he couldn’t believe his eyes.
Surely, he was in the lead now, Kraft figured. But no, Jim Herman, the overnight leader, was more than keeping pace, eventually tossing out a 62 that left him one stroke ahead of Kraft – and set the stage for what is sure to be a shootout on Sunday.
“This thing is far from over,” Kraft said on a day when it seemed like everyone was going low in the third round. “I mean, I felt like I was making birdies and eagles on the back nine, and I look up and I'm still trailing Jim Herman.
“So, it seems like a lot of other people are doing it too, so we're just going to have to keep our foot down tomorrow and get after it.”
Herman is 24 under through 54 holes – one stroke better than Troy Merritt shot over four rounds a year ago when he won the first Barbasol Championship played at Keene Trace. Herman’s score is the lowest 54-hole tally of the season.
Unlike Kraft, Bill Haas didn’t need to look at any leaderboards. The six-time PGA TOUR champ was playing in the final group with Herman, who made a pair of eagles and six birdies without dropping a single shot to par.
“I saw it firsthand, 10 under right next to me, and could have been better,” said Haas, who didn’t exactly scruff it around, shooting a 65 of his own to tie for third at 20 under with Austin Cook, who had fired a 63 earlier in the day.
“He just drove it beautifully and seemed to have a look on every hole. And when he had a nice look at eagle, he made those.”
Even Herman, who hit all but two fairways and all but two greens in regulation, was a bit taken aback by the fireworks. His own, as well as everyone else’s. The 62 is his best round since he opened the 2017 Valspar Championship with the same score and went on to tie for third.
“The scores I had been shooting lately, no, I didn't expect it,” said Herman, who, counting this week, has only made the cut in four of the 20 events he’s played this season.
“So, just very pleased. Obviously, just going to get some rest and try to replicate one of these other ‑‑ one of these scores I have had so far tomorrow. But you're going to have to go low. You can't protect anything. So maybe that's a good thing, you don't have to protect anything.”
Herman, who won the 2016 Shell Houston Open, acknowledges that he might not even own the lead when he tees off with Kraft at 12:40 p.m. on Sunday.
“So, you just know you're going to have to make some birdies and stay ahead of everybody else,” said Herman, who ranks first in Strokes Gained: Putting and Strokes Gained: Total this week.
Kraft, who said he felt like he was making putts on every hole in the frenetic third round, agrees. With wedges into a lot of greens and irons into par 5s, being aggressive again on Sunday will be key.
“The fairways got a little more firm today, so we were hitting a little bit farther,” Kraft said. “The greens are softer in the beginning of the round. They had a little bounce to them towards the end of the day, and they're rolling good. The par 5s are all reachable.
“Any time you have that combo on the PGA TOUR, guys are just going to light it up. It's just that simple.”
Haas, who won the FedExCup in 2014, has only made one bogey through 54 holes this week, with that coming on his 12th hole in the first round. He closed out Saturday’s 65 with a clutch 23-footer for a par after putting his drive at the 18th hole into the lake.
“(It was) a par that felt like a birdie the way Jim was going and the way Kelly in front of us was going,” Haas said. “Austin Cook I saw shot a low number. So, I just knew -- any bogey was going to feel like a double.”
A week ago, Haas started the final round of the John Deere Classic trailing by one and ended up tied for 10th. On Sunday, he gets another chance to win for the first time since the 2015 Humana Challenge presented by the Clinton Foundation.
“All you can ask for,” Haas said. “… Again, if he shoots 10 under again, I hope he wins by eight. That's what he deserves.
“But I hope I can do the same thing tomorrow, and at least put some pressure on him. And we'll see what happens.”