Recap of the day
Early starters: The first man to start making news did so in ugly fashion – Tiger Woods four-putting the 13th green when eyeing a birdie; it was not a morning to remember for him as he eventually signed for a 76 (more details below). Later Max Homa (65) and Talor Gooch (65) would set an early clubhouse target of 7-under 206 which Joel Dahmen would better by one with a 66.
Leaders: Sung Kang was impressive early in his round, but eventually carded 70 to join Homa and Gooch in a tie for eighth. Dustin Johnson’s 67 saw him join Dahmen in sixth. They trail Russell Henley (68) and Harold Varner III (69) by one. And out in front is a leading trio of Rory McIlroy (68), who stalled on the back nine, Matt Kuchar (70), who stumbled through the same stretch, and Adam Scott (67), who flew home on a wet sail. Rory versus Adam (with Kuchar ready to pinch the headlines) is all set to be a fine main feature on Sunday.
Low round of the day: Hideki Matsuyama match Gooch’s 64
Revised outright betting
McIlroy 13/8, Scott 7/2, Kuchar 6/1, Johnson 7/1, Varner III 16/1, Henley 16/1
Sunday weather forecast
Close to a replica of Saturday with sunny skies, temperatures in the high 60s, a wind of around 9 mph and very little chance of rain.
Leaders after at 54 holes
Adam Scott (67) – 1-over through five holes he then made four birdies in five holes around the turn and ticked the 18th for good measure. He ranks first for SG: Tee to Green (10.382), third for Approach the Green (5.836) and sixth Around the Green (3.414).
Matt Kuchar (70) – Dropping three shots in four holes from the 13th really hurt his chances and cost him the overnight lead. He ranked outside the top 25 for the three Strokes Gained long game categories, but third for Putting (7.668).
Rory McIlroy (68) – 4-under through 13 holes he was prowling and apparently ready to pounce for the 54-hole lead, but made bogey at 14 and added only pars to the clubhouse. He ranks top ten for the three SG long game categories and top 20 for the two which measure short game.
Fate of the Favourites
Rory McIlroy we’ve already discussed, Jon Rahm ranks tenth for SG: Putting but no better in any other category and it’s holding him back, Dustin Johnson made a third eagle-3 in 36 holes and added six birdies on Saturday, but he also dropped four shots. Justin Thomas didn’t reach the weekend.
Adam Scott (67): "It's a bit of motivation for me to win tomorrow here and have an official victory at Riviera. That would be extremely satisfying for me."
Matt Kuchar (70): "There's not a PGA Tour event you wouldn't want to win, but there are a handful that are extra special, have a great list of past champions, have a great golf course. This is one of those."
Rory McIlroy (68): "I dearly would love to win here. I think a lot of the great players in the game have won here and I would love to add myself to that list."
Road to victory at Riviera
2019 J.B. Holmes – R1: 1st, R2: 3rd, R3: 2nd
2018 Bubba Watson – R1: 6th, R2: 6th, R3: 1st
2017 Dustin Johnson – R1: 2nd, R2: 1st, R3: 1st
2016 Bubba Watson – R1: 2nd, R2: 3rd, R3: 1st
2015 James Hahn – R1: 1st, R2: 11th, R3: 7th
Notes: 19 of the 20 tournaments here in the 21st century have gone to 72 holes and all 19 winners were T10 or better at this stage, 14 of them T3 or better, including the last four. Three of the last six champions overcame a four-shot 54 hole deficit, but only once man overhauled a bigger gap – Mike Weir in 2003 when seven back.
Fate of the 54-hole leaders at Riviera – where did they finish?
2019 Justin Thomas 2nd
2018 Bubba Watson 1st
2017 Dustin Johnson 1st
2016 Bubba Watson 1st
2015 Retief Goosen 8th
Notes: Here’s an odd one – of those 19 events since 2000 to have gone to 72 holes only one didn’t have a solo leader at this stage! Keegan Bradley and Phil Mickelson in 2012 were the odd men out and neither claimed the win. The solo pace-setters are 9-for-18 at converting.
Focus on – Adam Scott
The experienced Aussie is no stranger to this situation. In fact, he’s held 28 third round leads round the world. A high percentage of them have been solo advantages – no fewer than 24 of them in fact. He has 18 wins from those 28 leads and has only twice not finished in the top three (he is 2-for-4 when the lead is shared). He won this event on his debut in 2005, but it was just a 36-hole event with an unofficial final result. He has eight top 20s at the course in 11 starts and a round four average of 69.89 (a sample of nine).
Focus on – Matt Kuchar
A 14th 54-hole lead for the American and fourth that he’s shared. He’s only once not finished in the top four from this position and six times has claimed the win. He is 1-for-4 with a shared lead and 12-for-13 at making the cut at the course, but with just the one top ten when T8 in 2016. His fourth round average is 69.75.
Focus on – Rory McIlroy
A 22nd 54-hole lead for the 30-year-old and sixth that he has shared. He has 12 wins in all from this situation, has only twice not finished top four and is 2-for-6 when the advantage is shared. He’s finished 20-20-4 at Riviera with a round four average of 70.67 (somewhat offset by a first effort 75 that has been followed by 68 and 69).
Focus on – Tiger Woods
His was not the perfect start to Moving Day: Bogeys at his second, fifth and seventh holes of the day with a four-putt double bogey-6 at the 13th in the middle of that ugly run. When he left himself just 18’4” for the birdie he must have been thinking of shoring up his card and even after he knocked it 2’4” past he would have had few fears, but the par putt lipped out, as did the bogey attempt. He made just ten four-putts in his first 1,213 rounds on the PGA Tour (one every 121.30 laps) and now has four in his last 82 (one every 20.40 circuits). A horror show first nine continued with a three-putt par-5 at the 17th as he turned in 41 blows before playing the front nine in level-par 35.