Recap of the day
We didn’t see the extreme scores of round two (61 and 62 from the twin 36-hole leaders) but the scoring average for Saturday’s third round at TPC Kuala Lumpur was the lowest yet. So far – Thursday: 69.821, Friday: 69.436, Saturday: 69.205. A two-man halfway lead became a three-man 54-hole lead as Shubhankar Sharma fired a 66 to join 36-hole pacesetters Gary Woodland and Marc Leishman. The trio ended round three two clear of Thursday leader Bronson Burgoon and 2010 Open champ Louis Oosthuizen. Talking of Claret Jug winners, the biggest move of the day was made by Stewart Cink, whose 63 lifted him 22 spots to T7.
Leaderboard: -19 Gary Woodland, Marc Leishman, Shubhankar Sharma, -17 Bronson Burgoon, Louis Oosthuizen, -16 Austin Cook, -15 Stewart Cink, Charles Howell III, Chesson Hadley, J.B. Holmes, Emiliano Grillo, Nick Watney.
Sunday weather forecast
The forecast suggests temperatures in the high 80s, very little wind, periods of sunshine but a chance of some t-storms from midday onwards.
Leaders after 54 holes
Gary Woodland (67, 197) – After playing his first 49 holes without a bogey, Woodland finally dropped a shot at 14 today. Lacked the sparkle of Friday’s 61 (no surprise there) but a 5-under-round was a decent way to back it up. T2 for Scrambling so far.
Marc Leishman (67, 197) – A tale of two nines for the Aussie. For the second day running he played Kuala Lumpur’s slightly easier front nine in 30 but on the back he fired 1-over 37. Loose off the tee, hitting just 6 of 14 fairways.
Shubhankar Sharma (66, 197) – Missed just one of the 14 fairways so gave himself lots of opportunities to attack. Sits second for Putts per GIR so far (25 today) and will look to learn from his 54-hole lead at the WGC-Mexico when dropping to T9 with a closing 74.
Louis Oosthuizen (65, 199) – Four birdies on each nine and just one dropped shot (No. 15). Lurking dangerously and has missed just six greens in regulation all week (hit 16 today). Won the 2012 Malaysian Open on this course.
Bronson Burgoon (67, 199) – Still riding that first-round leading 63 nicely. Bogeyed the first but then six birdies after that. Ranks T3 for GIR this week.
Fate of the favorites
Justin Thomas (69, 204) – Barring something sensational (well, he has shot 61 here before), this isn’t JT’s week. Dropped four spots to T19 today (seven back) and only T44 for GIR on the week after hitting 11 in R2 and 12 in R3.
Paul Casey (71, 202) – Five back now after starting Saturday just one off the pace. Home in 37 and only birdies were on par 5s. Found only 66% of the greens and putter didn’t offer much help.
Gary Woodland (67): “Played very well today. Didn't make as many putts as I did yesterday but drove the ball well. Kind of got a little loose there a little bit on the back nine, maybe ran out of gas a little, but it was nice to finish up with a birdie and nice to get some momentum going into tomorrow. I love this golf course, I love coming here, the people are great, food's great, the golf course is phenomenal. They've done a phenomenal job with the redo.”
Marc Leishman (67): “Played the first 10 holes really well, the putter cooled off a little bit, but hung in there to shoot 5 under. Happy with the round, gave myself a good chance tomorrow, so hopefully I can be hot like I was that first 10 holes today and see how we end up. Still feeling good over the ball.”
Shubhankar Sharma (66): “I got off to a flyer, front nine was great, 4-under--par through seven, and back nine I made a lot of crucial par putts and missed a few coming in, but really happy with the way I played and hung in there. Good thing is that I've been in this position before (WGC-Mexico) and I'm in it again. But the good thing also is that we're in Asia and I'm going to get a lot of support from all the fans. On this golf course you have to be good with your strategy, but it's all about hitting it as close as possible from the fairways because you're hitting short irons on every hole.”
Road to victory at TPC Kuala Lumpur
2017 Pat Perez – R1: 5th, R2: 1st, R3: 1st
2016 Justin Thomas – R1: 1st, R2: 1st, R3: 2nd
2015 Justin Thomas – R1: 16th, R2: 1st, R3: 1st
2014 Ryan Moore – R1: 5th, R2: 3rd, R3: 1st
2013 Ryan Moore – R1: 1st, R2: 2nd, R3: 1st
2012 Nick Watney – R1: 38th, R2: 20th, R3: 7th
Notes: The good news for Woodland, Leishman and Sharma is that four of the last five winners had a piece of the 54-hole lead while Nick Watney is the only player in the tournament’s history to win from outside the top five coming into Sunday. He started the final round four back, as did Justin Thomas when scoring his second win in 2016.
Fate of the 54-hole leaders at the CIMB Classic – where did they finish?
2017 Pat Perez – 1st
2016 Anirban Lahiri – 3rd
Notes: A total of ten players have led/co-led after 54 holes in the six years of this event and all managed to finish in the top three.
Focus on – Gary Woodland
The betting says Woodland wins from here but the Kansas Jayhawk has some history to overcome. Five times he’s been leader/co-leader on the PGA after 54 holes in regular strokeplay but the American hasn’t converted any. There is an exception which the official notes forgot to mention. Woodland was five points clear at the 2013 Reno-Tahoe Open which operates a modified stableford scoring system and went on to win by a six-point margin. In those failures, his final-round scores read 70, 73, 74, 73, 69 and anything like that won’t get it done here with scoring so low. Woodland, of course, is also a two-time runner-up in this event. He was just one back after 54 holes in 2013 before losing a play-off while he was three adrift in 2014 and the same number in arrears at the finish. Woodland has won his three PGA TOUR titles from behind, coming from three, one and two shots back respectively. History says he chases well but struggles when the target is on his back. Losing the lead early on Sunday may prove no bad thing.