ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – Notes and observations from the third round of The RSM Classic at Sea Island Resort’s Seaside Course.
Charles Howell III had a chance to put away The RSM Classic before Sunday began. Instead, he’ll start the final round with the slimmest of leads.
Howell, who started the week with consecutive 64s, shot 68 on Sunday to post a career-best 54-hole score of 196. He is one shot ahead of Jason Gore and Cameron Champ, who both shot 66. Those three will play in the final group for the second consecutive day.
Howell started Saturday with a three-shot lead. He birdied two of the first three holes to pull ahead by five, and he still led by four when he made the turn. Champ was the only player within six shots.
Howell shot 1 over par on the back nine, though. He sandwiched a birdie at the par-5 15th between bogeys at Nos. 14 and 16. He missed the fairway at 14 and hit a tree with his approach shot. He three-putted the 16th from 18 feet.
Gore shot 30, including an eagle on the par-5 15th, and Champ birdied the last hole to shoot 33. Nine players are now within five shots of Howell.
Howell is seeking his third win in 529 PGA TOUR starts. Only two players needed more starts to win for the third time, Leonard Thompson (553) and Howard Twitty (532). Howell’s last win was more than a decade ago. He has never won when holding the lead, either. This is the sixth time that he’s held at least a share of the lead after 54 holes.
This week, he leads the field in greens hit (49 of 54) and is 10th in driving accuracy (36 of 42).
EAGLE HAS LANDED: Webb Simpson almost withdrew on Friday. He shot 63 on Saturday and now has a chance to win for the second time in 2018.
Simpson, the reigning PLAYERS champion, is 13 under par. He holed a wedge shot for eagle and made three putts outside of 20 feet on Saturday.
Simpson received an I.V. at the course before teeing off Friday. He still shot 68.
He had to withdraw from last year’s RSM after sitting in 12th place at the halfway mark. He withdrew before the third round to be with his ailing father, who passed away shortly after.
“Last year was a sad time for me, my whole family, but my wife and I, we love coming here,” Simpson said. “It’s a great spot to bring our kids and I love the golf course. It’s good to be back here.”
TWO-TIME CHAMP?: Champ has a chance to make some FedExCup history. Since the advent of the wraparound season, no one has won twice in the fall portion of the schedule. Champ already won this season’s Sanderson Farms Championship. He also could set the record for most FedExCup points earned in the fall (921) and the largest lead after the fall. Champ has been in the top 10 after 12 of his last 15 rounds. Fourteen of his last 16 rounds have been in the 60s, including seven scores of 66 or lower. He is 70 under par this season with a 67.7 scoring average.
This week, he leads the field in Strokes Gained: Putting, gaining 6.3 strokes in his two rounds at Seaside. He has holed more than half his putts from 10-15 feet (5 of 9) and has made four putts from outside 15 feet.
PEP TALK: Gore admitted there were some bad words running through his head after his three-putt on the ninth hole. He was seven shots behind Howell after missing that 4-footer for par. Gore shot 30 on the back nine for the second straight day to pull within one shot of the lead, though. He birdied three of his next four holes, then hit 3-wood to 18 feet for an eagle on the par-5 15th.
Gore, who received his insurance license last week, received a sponsor exemption into this event. Only eight players have won in the past quarter-century when playing on a sponsor exemption. He is one of them (2005 84 Lumber Classic, his lone TOUR win). Gore also is the Web.com Tour’s all-time victory leader (7).
QUOTABLESI just love being around the ocean, around water.
Lowest round: Patrick Rodgers fired a third-round 61 to move from the cut line to contention. He is in seventh place, five shots behind the leaders.
Longest drive: Champ’s 343-yard drive on the ninth hole was the longest of the day by eight yards. He also had the day’s second-longest tee shot, a 335-yarder on the 15th hole. He birdied both holes.
Longest putt: Tournament host Davis Love III holed a 48-footer.
Hardest hole: The 469-yard, par-4 18th played to a 4.13 scoring average. Champ was one of just seven players to birdie the hole Saturday.
Easiest hole: The 530-yard, par-5 15th hole played to a 4.22 scoring average. Gore’s eagle was one of five made Saturday on that hole.
SHOT OF THE DAY
Shot of the Day
Webb Simpson's eagle hole out is the Shot of the Day
CALL OF THE DAY
For play-by-play coverage of the fourth round of The RSM Classic, listen at PGATOUR.COM.