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Gary Woodland
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The Roundup

Woodland hits the front after 54 in Hero

by Dave Tindall
Updated On: December 6, 2019, 4:57 pm ET

Recap of the day

With a three-shot overnight lead, Patrick Reed had a chance to slip the field but it all went wrong for Captain America. Not only did he hit the ball 72 times (joint-most of the day), Reed also incurred a two-shot penalty to turn it into a 2-over 74. The problem came in a waste area at the 11th when he improved his lie by taking two backswings which reduced the sand behind his ball. Officials spoke to Reed after the round and found him in infringement of Rule 12-3, turning his bogey-6 at 11 into a triple bogey-8. With the door flung open, the chasing pack seized the opportunity to burst through it. Henrik Stenson was dialled in and briefly held a two-shot lead with a hole to play before letting one go at the last to post 12-under. Gary Woodland tied him with a monster putt at 17 and then flushed his approach to 18 for a kick-in birdie to post the 54-hole lead of 13-under. Playing partners Tiger Woods and Justin Thomas fired 67s to pull within two while last year's winner, Jon Rahm, joined them on 11-under via an eagle at 15 and walk-off birdie. With Reed now at -10, we're now down to a six-horse race as it's way back to 6-under for T7 and worse. 

Full leaderboard: -13 Gary Woodland, -12 Henrik Stenson, -11 Tiger Woods, Justin Thomas, Jon Rahm, -10 Patrick Reed, -6 Chez Reavie, Rickie Fowler, Justin Rose, -5 Matt Kuchar, Kevin Kisner, -4 Webb Simpson, -3 Xander Schauffele, -2 Jordan Spieth, Evs Tony Finau, Bubba Watson, +1 Bryson DeChambeau, Patrick Cantlay.

Low round of the day: 67 Thomas, Woods.

Revised outright betting: 11/4 Woodland, 10/3 Rahm, 4/1 Thomas, 9/2 Stenson, 5/1 Woods, 14/1 Reed. Anyone else is 200/1 or higher.

 

Saturday weather forecast

Temperatures are locked in around the mid-70s again and there's plenty of sunshine. However, wind is set to be a factor, and it could blow up at 15mph as the leaders play the back nine.

 

Leaders at 54 holes

Gary Woodland (68, 203) – Three birdies in his first 11 holes before a dropped shot at 12. Missed good chances coming in before draining a bomb at 17 to tie and flushing his second to the last for a kick-in birdie to edge in front.

Henrik Stenson (68, 204) – The famous old 3-wood has been retired but the new one is performing pretty well too. Superb from tee-to-green today, Stenson fired at the flags and was rewarded with birdies at 3, 9, 13, 15 and 17. Caught the lip of a fairway bunker with his second at the par-4 18th and made five to deny himself the only bogey-free round of the day.  

Tiger Woods (67, 205) – Tiger really had his ball under control today and, for the second round running, matched the low lap of the day. Birdied four of the five par 5s and signed off in style with a birdie at 18 after a glorious approach.

Justin Thomas (67, 205) – Ticked four of his first eight holes and picked up two more on the obvious birdie opportunity holes at 14 and 15. Fought the driver but did everything else well to match the low round of the day. 

Jon Rahm (69, 205) – Briefly tied the lead when draining a 30-footer for eagle at the 15th but then lipped out for bogey at 16. Hit back with a walk-off birdie to gain what could be a decisive two-shot swing on playing partner Stenson and end the day two off the lead. The defending champion isn't giving this up lightly.

 

Fate of the favorites

Jon Rahm – See above

Justin Thomas – See above

Patrick Cantlay (71, 217) – Well, he's getting lower each day. However, after rounds of 74 and 72, he's still not got out of the 70s. Six birdies was good but five bogeys was not. Now joint-last.

Tiger Woods – See above

 

Quotes

Patrick Reed: “At the end of the day you gotta let things roll of your shoulders. Also at the same time, I have another whole round to play tomorrow. If I stew over something that I felt like I didn’t intentionally do, at the end of the day it’s my word versus their word. They weren’t standing there, they had a camera angle. Because of that, you don’t really have a choice."

 

Road to victory at Albany

2018 Jon Rahm – R1: 10th, R2: 1st, R3: 1st
2017 Rickie Fowler – R1: 2nd, R2: 5th, R3: 5th
2016 Hideki Matsuyama – R1: 2nd, R2: 1st, R3: 1st
2015 Bubba Watson – R1: 4th, R2: 4th, R3: 1st

Notes: Three of the four winners at Albany had a piece of the 54-hole lead so it's a good place to be. However, those hopeful for a final-round charge should look to Fowler, who was a full seven shots back with 18 holes to play before shooting 11-under in round four.

 

Fate of the 54-hole leaders at Albany – where did they finish?

2018 Jon Rahm 1st, Tony Finau 2nd, Henrik Stenson 4th
2017 Charley Hoffman 2nd
2016 Hideki Matsuyama 1st
2015 Bubba Watson 1st.

Notes: The three co-leaders last year went on to finish first, second and fourth while Matsuyama and Watson converted after starting round four seven and two shots clear respectively. Hoffman was five clear but ran into Fowler's 61.

 

Focus on - Gary Woodland with the lead

Until this year's U.S. Open, Woodland was 0-for-7 in converting 54-hole leads under regulation strokeplay (he did get it done in modified stableford at the Reno-Tahoe Open in 2013). But, when it mattered most, he closed with a 69 to turn a precarious one-shot lead into a three-shot victory at Pebble Beach. On that occasion, he was a single shot clear of Justin Rose, while Brooks Koepka, Louis Oosthuizen and Rory McIlroy were all within striking distance. This time he has to hold off defending champion Rahm and another raft of major winners in Stenson, Woods, Thomas and Reed. It's a tough ask but that Pebble experience must surely stand him in good stead.

 

Focus on - What happens next?

It's easy to think that victory here doesn't really mean a great deal in terms of what the following year may hold. And yet, victory in the Hero World Challenge has been a very useful springboard. Here's what happened to the last six winners of this tournament:

2018 Jon Rahm - won the European Tour's 2019 Race to Dubai.

2017 Rickie Fowler - finished runner-up at the 2018 Masters.

2016 Hideki Matsuyama - won the 2017 Waste Management Phoenix Open and WGC-Bridgestone Invitational. Runner-up at 2017 US Open and T5 at PGA.

2015 Bubba Watson - Runner-up in the first WGC event of 2016, the Cadillac Championship in March.

2014 Jordan Spieth -  Won the first two majors of 2015 (Masters, U.S. Open), finishing fourth and second in the other two.

2013 Zach Johnson - Won the Hyundai Tournament of Champions a month later on his very next start.

Of course, these are all great players anyway but signing off the year with a win certainly seemed to have a positive effect.

Dave Tindall
Dave Tindall is former golf editor at Sky Sports.com in the UK and has been writing betting previews for the European Tour since 1997. He can be reached via e-mail on tindall_david@hotmail.com and on Twitter @davetindallgolf.