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Tony Finau
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The Roundup

The Roundup: Finau on brink

by Matt Cooper
Updated On: November 14, 2018, 7:09 am ET

Recap of the day

 

Early on Andrew Putnam and Thorbjorn Olesen swept the course aside with 5-under-par 67s but going low was far from common on another tough and blustery day between the trees in Shanghai. For example, Thomas Pieters followed his Friday 64 with a 74, Kyle Stanley dropped out of the reckoning with a 78, Hideki Matsuyama limped round with a 77, and Rory McIlroy is 8-over for the week (T60). Stood on the 17th tee Justin Rose led the field by two strokes. He'd been steady, playing partner and pre-round leader Tony Finau had struggled. So, too, had the third man in the group Patrick Reed. Whereupon everything changed. Finau closed birdie-birdie, Reed bogey-birdie, Rose double bogey-bogey. Out of nowhere we were back where we started: Finau leading by three.

 

Leaderboard: -13 Tony Finau, -10 Patrick Reed, Xander Schauffele, Justin Rose, -8 Tommy Fleetwood, Andrew Putnam, -7 Keegan Bradley, Kiradech Aphibarnrat

 

Notables: -6 Jason Day, +1 Brooks Koepka, +4 Dustin Johnson, +8 Rory McIlroy, +10 Francesco Molinari

 

Low round of the day: The 67s of Putnam and Olesen.

 

Revised outright betting: 11/10 Finau, 7/2 Rose, 13/2 Reed, 13/2 Schauffele, Fleetwood 20/1, Putnam 50/1

 

Sunday weather forecast

 

Not much change: clear skies, temperature in the 60s, almost no chance of rain and a blustering wind.

 

 

Leaders after at 54 holes

 

Tony Finau (70, 203) - The World No. 17 landed only half the fairways and half the greens in regulation, but he needed a mere 24 putts. He was the only player in the field to birdie the final three holes; a crucial spell - those three shots represent his final round advantage.

 

Xander Schauffele (69, 206) - Looking for his first WGC top ten and doing it despite being erratic from the tee. He found 4 of 14 fairways on Saturday and has made just 14 of 42 through the week. No-one in the field has scrambled better however (80%).

 

Patrick Reed (70, 206) - 8-under through 18 holes, 1-over through the next 27, he needed something on Saturday's back nine and found it: a five birdie 3-under 33. Has to find more greens; he was 100% in round one and is 61.11% through rounds two and three.

 

Justin Rose (70, 206) - A disastrous final two holes (and a second bogey-6 of the week at the last) and his approaches are a problem. He's hit 71.43% of fairways (4th in the field) and has made 1.545 putts per GIR (2nd), but landed just 61.11% of greens in regulation (27th).

 

 

Fate of the Favourites

 

Brooks Koepka (71, 217) - Made five birdies, but three of them were immediately followed by bogeys. Found less than half the fairways (ranks T68th) and needed 1.824 putts per GIR (57th).

 

Dustin Johnson (73, 220) - Wayward driving is hurting him: just 21 of 42 fairways. 

 

Justin Rose - see above

 

 

Quotes

 

Tony Finau (70, 203) - "Great to birdie the last three. I didn't have a lot going my way for the first half of the day and Rosey was making his run. Really pleased to get some momentum going into tomorrow. I've got a world-class field chasing after me. This is the position you want to be in. I'll be looking to close out my first tournament. Whether it happens or not, it's an experience that you learn from and you continue to move forward. Hopefully make a lot of birdies and have those guys have to do something special tomorrow to beat me."

 

Justin Rose (70, 206) - "I played well today just a tough finish. Missed it in the spot you can't miss it on 17 and that's such a disaster of an area. You can't drop it. You can't chip it. You can't do anything down there. So that took about half an hour. I'm playing well, so I've got to shoot something in the mid 60s and see if I can chase Tony down. Just got to put the finish behind me and come out a little bit angry tomorrow."

 

Patrick Reed (70, 206) - "We're definitely still in the golf tournament. I would have preferred to make a couple more birdies and hit the ball a little better today, but I kept myself in it and everything can happen on a Sunday. That's the thing about golf. You have to be able to forget the bad things and remember the good things and go out and shoot low numbers."

 

Xander Schauffele (69, 206) - "Got a little bit closer and had a few lip outs. I'll have a word with my caddie tonight. Try and stick to whatever process we come up with. There's a lot of decisions to be made out here with the wind swirling. If we can stay in each shot and not get ahead of ourselves, I think that will be the key to success."

 

 

Road to Victory at Sheshan International

 

2017 Justin Rose – R1: 6th, R2: 3rd, R3: 4th

2016 Hideki Matsuyama – R1: 3rd, R2: 1st, R3: 1st

2015 Russell Knox – R1: 9th, R2: 2nd, R3: 1st

2014 Bubba Watson – R1: 19th, R2: 3rd, R3: 3rd

2013 Dustin Johnson – R1: 8th, R2: 1st, R3: 1st

 

Notes: Comebacks have been made on this course. Rose was 4th but eight swings back of Dustin Johnson last year. Martin Kaymer in 2011 was T6 and five back. 

 

 

Fate of the 54-hole Leaders at Sheshan International - where did they finish?

 

2017 - Dustin Johnson - 2nd

2016 - Hideki Matsuyama - 1st

2015 - Russell Knox - 1st

2014 - Kevin Kisner - 2nd, Graeme McDowell - 3rd

2013 - Dustin Johnson - 1st

 

Notes: In all WGC events on the course 54 hole leaders are 5-for-9. They were 2-for-4 when it was a regular event.

 

 

Focus on - The closing stretch 

 

The contrasting fortunes of Finau and Rose are a reminder that this tournament is not over until the last putts drops because whilst the final three holes offer birdie (and eagle) opportunities, disaster always looms large. The 288-yard par-4 16th was the third easiest hole on the course Saturday which adds a pressure of its own: the player feels he has to break par there. The 212-yard par-3 17th is a bleaker test. In round three there were 27 bogeys, eight double bogeys and Matt Wallace made a triple (Finau was one of only three men to birdie it); it was the toughest hole on the course. Other than the second, the 18th was the only hole to witness everything on Saturday: an eagle, 20 birdies, 40 pars, 14 bogeys, two scores worse than that. Sunday's leader will always be wary of the final three holes and the chasers will know it.

 

 

Focus on - Francesco Molinari

 

In his pre-tournament press conference the Italian talked of his superb year but there was a telling aside: "It's been a very long season. Obviously very positive for me, but you feel that the energies are not the same as a few months ago." That makes perfect sense and in the aftermath of a physically, mentally and emotionally draining Ryder Cup some sort of hangover was inevitable. He shot 73-73-75-72 to finish T56 in the British Masters and this week, his only other post-Paris start, he has limped to the final day with rounds of 76-75-75. His long game strength has deserted him, finding only six greens in regulation in the first round, seven in the second and just six fairways in the third. In seven previous starts on this course he averaged 71.17% of fairways; this week 52.38%. His career GIR number at Sheshan is 69.26%; this week 46.30%. Has he hit a wall? He gets the next two weeks off prior to the DP World Tour Championship, he deserves it - and he might need it.