Recap of the day
“I just have a pretty horrendous track record here. But I'm happy to be playing the weekend this year,” said Tony Finau after finishing day two six off the pace, Now, after missing his last four cuts at TPC Scottsdale, the Utah native finds himself in the lead with 18 holes to play thanks to a career-low tying 62 in round three. Webb Simpson may also seem an unlikely presence in Sunday’s final group to anyone who watched him chug to even par 71 in round one but the 2010 U.S. Open champ is now Finau’s nearest challenger, just one back, after rounds of 63 and 64. Today’s 7-under-par round featured a hole-in-one at 12.
Overnight leader J.B. Holmes spent most of Moving Day running in treacle but did manage birdies at 14 and 15 for a 1-under 70. That left him still very much in the hunt at 14-under – just two behind – alongside Hudson Swafford, who shot a bogey-free 66 and ranks 1st for GIR this week (17 today). Xander Schauffele is lurking three off the pace after a trio of gains at 13, 15 and 18 completed a Saturday 66 while Adam Long (66) and Scott Piercy (68) share fifth spot. Byeong Hun An (-12) is the only non-American in the top ten.
Billy Horschel got it to 15-under and had the lead after four early birdies but he bogeyed nine and came home in 41 to slump to a 73 and drop seven back.
Low round of the day: 62 Tony Finau
Revised outright betting
2/1 Finau, 5/2 Simpson, 11/2 Schauffele, 8/1 Holmes, 16/1 Swafford, 20/1 Piercy, 25/1 Long, An, 45/1 Rahm.
Sunday weather forecast
It’s another pleasant day with temperatures in the early 70s once more. The wind could just pick up a little (around 8-11mph) for the very late starters.
Leaders after at 54 holes
Tony Finau (62, 197) – If you’re going to shoot 62, you surely have to send the masses wild on the famous 16th hole and, for the second day running, Finau did just that by putting on his Kobe Lakers jersey and holing from five feet. That completed a fierce scoring burst (-5 in five holes, including eagle-3 at 13) from the 12th. Finau gained 6.742 shots Tee To Green and ranks 1st in that category so far (15th for SG: Putting).
Webb Simpson (64, 198) – Seven birdies and a hole-in-one at the par-3 12th kept the 2017 runner-up here charging up the leaderboard. A bogey at 17 was a slight irritation but he’s in a great position after 15 birdies and an eagle over his last 36 holes. Ranks 1st in SG: Approach this week and 3rd for SG: Tee To Green.
Fate of the favorites
While Simpson continued his charge, Jon Rahm again frustrated the life out of himself by playing the final three holes in over par to land at -10, now six back. Like Rahm, Justin Thomas hasn’t been able to find a low one (68-68-69) and today’s modest lap featured just three birdies and left him in T21. Hideki Matsuyama did find a spark again after his Friday 74 and a 65 with eight birdies hoisted him 27 spots up the board to T28 but nine back.
Tony Finau (62) – “It was nice. I made some putts early and I felt pretty good all day. It was an important putt I think I made on 8 and 9 to kind of get me going, after a solid start, and just kind of ran from there. I gave myself a lot of looks and I was able to make some putts and capitalize on those looks. I hit more fairways today so I was able to give myself some short irons into the par-4s and I scored really nicely with them and everything was kind of vibing, every time you shoot in the low 60s it seems to be that way. I was happy that I was able to capitalize on that one on 16. That was quite fun to hit that shot and, man, I'm pretty happy with being a couple under in that Kobe jersey (he also wore it when making birdie at 16 yesterday); looks like I'll be wearing it tomorrow.”
Webb Simpson (64) – “The last two days I let the birdies come to me and it's hard in this game when you try to force it. But there's plenty of birdie holes, like I said, so if I keep playing solid there's great opportunities for tomorrow.”
Hudson Swafford (66) – “I played really solid. I would say I did everything pretty well. I hit a lot of good putts that went in, hit a lot of good putts that didn't go in, hit a lot of quality iron shots, I drove the ball good, I just, everything was just solid.”
Jon Rahm (68) – “I don't know, can't make a putt. If I could make a putt I would be happier, but six back, hitting it good, I just can't seem to roll it in and at this point it just seems like it's a little bit too far to be able to make it up.”
Rickie Fowler (69) – “A 2 on 16 is always a highlight. Got off to a little slow start bogeying 10 and 11, but happy with where the game's at, felt like I made a lot of good swings out there. I had a few holes slip away, not birdieing 13, making bogey on 17, but we needed a low one to get back into some sort of the mix today and just really didn't get anything going.”
Road to victory at TPC Scottsdale
2019 – Rickie Fowler R1: 1st, R2: 1st, R3: 1st
2018 – Gary Woodland R1: 7th, R2: 8th, R3: 8th
2017 – Hideki Matsuyama R1: 2nd, R2: 3rd, R3: 3rd
2016 – Hideki Matsuyama R1: 1st, R2: 4th, R3: 2nd
2015 – Brooks Koepka R1: 64th, R2: 20th, R3: 2nd
Notes: In terms of leaderboard position, no winner has come from further back this century than Gary Woodland’s eighth place. However, that was a packed 54-hole leaderboard in 2017 and he was only three adrift starting the final round. In terms of strokes back, Kyle Stanley came from eight in arrears even though he started Sunday in fifth. Fowler was four clear last year but the previous four winners were at least three strokes back so there’s historical hope for the chasers.
Fate of the third-round leaders at TPC Scottsdale – where did they finish?
Notes: Fowler converted last year but he almost made a mess of it. Prior to that, the only player to turn their 54-hole lead into a victory since 2009 was Phil Mickelson in 2013 so Saturday leaders can be vulnerable. Not good news for Finau.
Focus on – Tony Finau
While his course record of MC-MC-MC-MC from 2016 to 2019 has been well documented this week, it’s worth noting that Finau did post T22 on his TPC Scottsdale debut in 2015, closing with 67 in what remains his only Sunday lap at the par 71. But the bigger stat for Finau to change is the one that shows he still only has only a single PGA TOUR win, the low-key Puerto Rico Open in 2016. Five top tens in his last eight majors highlight that he’s an elite player but the 30-year-old needs those ‘W’s. While some gamers will have him down as a nervy finisher, he’s not actually been in this position many times before. This will be his first 54-hole lead in a regular PGA TOUR event. The previous two times he’s slept on a lead ahead of round four, he finished fifth in the 2018 U.S. Open after starting R4 tied at the top while he lost a play-off at the 2018 WGC-HSBC Champions in China when finishing Saturday three clear of the field. And will he sleep well tonight? “I sleep great. I'm a great sleeper. I got my Whoop to tell me how great I sleep." Winning score? “20-under's got a great chance. 20-under you can take a lot of the guys out of the equation, guys that are 11- or 12-, they're going to have to shoot pretty ridiculous tomorrow. That seems to be a good number.”
Meanwhile, on the European Tour...
Saudi International - Recap of R3
Showing his prowess in the blustery conditions, Graeme McDowell came home in 31 to complete a third-round 66 and move into a one-shot lead on 12-under 198.
His nearest rival is a Frenchman called Victor but not the one expected. While overnight leader Victor Perez slumped to a 3-over 73 to fall five back, Victor Dubuisson jumped into solo second with a superb 65.
It means the final two-ball on Sunday will see a reunion of the McDowell-Dubuisson partnership from the 2014 Ryder Cup at Gleneagles.
The chasing pack are up against it though as McDowell has converted seven of his 11 third-round leads across both main tours.
Notables: -5 Ross Fisher, Henrik Stenson, Ian Poulter, -4 Shane Lowry, Thomas Pieters, Abraham Ancer, -3 Jhonattan Vegas, Sergio Garcia, -2 Christiaan Bezuidenhout, -1 Matt Wallace, Evs Martin Kaymer, +1 HaoTong Li.
Revised betting: 13/8 McDowell, 7/2 Dubuisson, 7/1 Green, 10/1 DJ, 14/1 Koepka, 16/1 Perez, 25/1 Paratore, 33/1 Detry, 50/1 Mickelson.