Recap of the day
A Moving Day of low scoring. Patrick Rodgers thrashed a scintillating 9-under-par 61 to reach T7 on 11-under. Veteran Zach Johnson and Brian Gay joined him on that mark with 65s. Past winner Kevin Kisner found his best form with a 63 to get to 11-under; Patton Kizzire and Ricky Werenski also made that number in climbing to T15. Back up near the top of the leaderboard Luke List was another to peg 63 as he slotted in at T6 on 12-under. And then there was the final group. Charles Howell III was an assured leader through the turn, but played the back nine in 1-over and his playing partners came back at him. He eventually shot a 68 for 16-under 196, but those partners, Gore and Champ, slashed 66s to get within one of him.
Low round of the day: The 61 of Rodgers
Revised outright betting: Champ 7/4, Howell III 9/4, Simpson 5/1, Gore 8/1, List 33/1, Blaum 33/1
Sunday weather forecast
Warmer temperatures (mid 60s), greater humidity (79%), but also a much increased chance of rain. In fact it is highly likely at 60%. The wind is forecast to pick up, too. Predictions might only be 10mph, but that's the most of the week and there has to be a good chance that, as all week, it is a little tougher than that on the course.
Leaders after at 54 holes
Charles Howell III (68, 196) – When you start from perfection it’s tough to maintain, but the numbers do show a regression: fairways hit from 14 to 12 to 10; greens landed from 18 to 16 to 15. It had looked so smooth for so long in R3, turning in 3-under, but a clumsy failed scramble on 14, a three-putt on 16, plus the hot finishes of Gore and Champ will prompt a restless night.
Jason Gore (66, 197) – Missed only one fairway on Saturday and yet turned in 1-over. Turned that around in style, thrashing three birdies and an eagle-3 on the way home.
Cameron Champ (66, 197) – Was 1-over through six holes and, like Gore, was ceding ground to the leader. Also like Gore he missed just one fairway all day and it started to bear fruit on No. 7. Made four birdies in a row from there, and added two more at 15 and 18. His shadow looms large in the leader’s wing mirror.
Webb Simpson (63, 199) – Opened with six pars and then began one of the runs that have typified his 2018: five birdies and an eagle-2 in his next 12 holes, holing out from 127-yards for the latter.
Ryan Blaum (65, 199) – Neat, tidy, bogey-free. He found 13 of 14 fairways, 16 of 18 greens in regulation and clipped five birdies, four of them in six holes on the back nine.
Fate of the Favourites
Webb Simpson – see above
Cameron Champ – see above
C.T. Pan – missed cut
Road to victory at Sea Island
2017 Austin Cook – R1: 8th, R2: 1st, R3: 1st
2016 Mackenzie Hughes – R1: 1st, R2: 1st, R3: 1st
2015 Kevin Kisner – R1: 1st, R2: 2nd, R3: 1st
2014 Robert Streb – R1: 48th, R2: 10th, R3: 12th
2013 Chris Kirk – R1: 11th, R2: 1st, R3: 1st
Notes: Since two courses were first used in 2015 three of three winners were leading alone after 54 holes. But if you include all eight of the tournaments at Sea Island three players overcame large deficits with 18 holes to play. Robert Streb and Ben Crane (2011) came from five swings back to force a play-off before winning it; Tommy Gainey raced from seven back to set a target no-one could better in 2012.
Fate of the 54-hole leaders at Sea Island - where did they finish?
2017 Austin Cook 1st
2016 Mackenzie Hughes 1st
2015 Kevin Kisner 1st
Notes: A flawless record in the last three years. In all, four of five solo leaders at this stage claimed the win. Just one of six sharing the lead did so.
Focus on – Charles Howell III With a Lead
This is his sixth 54 holes lead and he is yet to convert one of them into a win. Hare are the previous occasions:
2003 Nissan Open – three shot lead – shot 73 – finished 2nd
2006 84 Lumber Classic – shared lead – shot 72 – finished 2nd
2007 Sony Open – one shot lead – shot 70 – finished 2nd
2008 AT&T Classic – shared lead – shot 74 – finished 8th
2008 Turning Stone Championship – shared lead – shot 73 – finished 3rd
So he averages 72.40 and if he maintains that, it surely won’t be enough. It’s also slightly surprising to note that it is now over ten years since he last found himself in this position. His two wins on the otherhand? Both from three swings back, shooting 67 and 65 to win the 2002 Michelob Championship and 2007 Nissan Open.
Focus on – The Career of Charles Howell III
Famously the 39-year-old has finished second or third far more times then he has won. In fact, he even referenced this trend himself after the second round, saying: “I've almost done everything in my career, but playing with a lead isn't something I've really done a whole lot of. I could talk to you about finishing second or third a lot.” In all he has two wins from 27 career top three finishes on the PGA Tour (7.4%). How does that compare with Webb Simpson and Zach Johnson, who are also in this week’s 54-hole top ten? The former has five wins from 18 top threes (27.8%) and the latter 12 victories from 32 top threes (37.5%).
Sunday’s Question therefore is ...
Which trend will maintain? Sea Island’s 54-hole leaders since two courses were introduced or Charles Howell III’s frailty with leaderboard heights?