NASSAU, Bahamas – News and notes from Saturday’s third round of the Hero World Challenge, with Henrik Stenson, Jon Rahm and Tony Finau sharing the lead, while tournament host Tiger Woods is at the bottom of the 18-man leaderboard.
DOES ANOTHER 61 LOOM?
A year ago, Henrik Stenson was in the first group out on Sunday in the final round at Albany. As he finished up his round on the 18th green, Rickie Fowler was just making the turn.
Stenson couldn’t help but notice Fowler’s score. “I saw he had made eight birdies in his first nine holes,” the Swede recalled.
Fowler, who had birdied his first seven holes, eventually shot a course-record 11-under 61 to win by four shots.
So while Stenson, Rahm and Finau share a two-shot lead going into Sunday, more than half of the small field is within five shots of the lead. On a course that can offer up low scores – there are five par 5s, after all – a shootout surely looms, right?
“With that fresh in mind, I think you can certainly expect, or at least see the potential of, a few of the other guys contending if they get off to a hot start,” Stenson said.
Stenson is the only player in the field who has three rounds in the 60s, and he leads the field in birdies (19), fairways hit (32 of 39) and greens in regulation (45 of 54). But the two lowest rounds of the week belong to his fellow co-leaders. Jon Rahm shot a second-round 63 and Tony Finau had a 64 on the same day.
All three know they will need to come out firing.
“There’s nothing to lose,” Rahm said. “It’s possible that somebody who’s 8 under can come out and shoot 8 or 9 under like I did yesterday and post a score we’ll have to beat.”
Finau, making his first start in this event, was actually 1 over on the first three par 5s he played in the first round. Since then? He’s 10 under on the par 5s, which is why he’s played his way back into the tournament.
“I feel like I can score on any golf course, especially a course that has five par 5s,” Finau said. “You’ve got that one extra hole. And we play a lot of golf courses on the PGA TOUR where there’s only two or three, so to be able to have those couple extra par 5s, you just know you’re going to have some opportunities to score.”
Henrik Stenson comments after Round 3 of Hero
TIGER IN LAST PLACE: Tiger Woods has won the Hero World Challenge five times in its first 19 years. There won’t be a sixth win this week. His even-par 72 on Saturday left him at 2 under and dead last. He suffered a double-bogey for the second straight day, this time at the par-5 third. “I just have not done a very good job this week of playing clean and keeping my rounds going like I should and could have,” Woods said. On the positive side, Woods did say he’s finally over the cold that he’s been battling for the last week. “Today was probably the best I’ve felt physically this week,” he said. “Finally started to get my energy back.”
LOFT ADJUSTMENT: Tony Finau was not happy with his putting after the first round, so he added two degrees of loft before teeing off on Friday. He’s shot 64-67 since … so, yeah, the move has worked out quite nicely. He said it’s “been awhile” since he’s had such loft on his putter. “Junior golf, I had a lot of forward shaft lean when I putted and it was just something that I wanted to address for a little bit,” Finau said. “Just was never able to commit to it. I putted pretty bad on Thursday and I figured it doesn’t get any worse than that, so let’s try something else.”
ENDING ON A HIGH NOTE: Jon Rahm won his final start in 2017 (at the DP World Tour Challenge). He would dearly love to end the 2018 calendar year with another win. “I was able to fiish off the year with a win, and I can tell you it feels great,” Rahm said “A good way to go home with a smile and enjoy Christmas a little bit.”
NOREN’S WILD FINISH: Alex Noren was 1 over on his round through 13 holes. He then birdied the par-4 14th; eagled the par-5 15th; double-bogeyed the par-4 16th, aced the 17th; and birdied the 18th. That would be your normal 3-3-7-1-3 finish.
CHARITY UPDATE: Jon Rahm and Patrick Cantlay are donating $500 for each of their birdies this week to the California wildfire relief. Rahm has 18 birdies through three rounds; Cantlay has 14 birdies. The 32 birdies has pushed their total to a combined $16,000.
SHOT OF THE DAY
Shot of the Day
Alex Noren's ace is the Shot of the Day