Recap of the day
Early starters: With the wind gusting, many of those with morning tee times found themselves making big leaderboard gains by shooting nothing better than 68s and 69s. Standout among them was Byeong Hun An, whose 68 lifted him into the top 20 on level-par, a sterling effort after starting the week with a 76. But the first man to impact right at the top was Daniel Berger whose 69 included a final hole bogey, but he still set a clubhouse target of 2-under 208.
Leaders: Charl Schwartzel looked set to better Berger’s total, but a late double bogey derailed his charge and he only equaled it. Sungjae Im was another who labored on the way home, his approach play struggling, as he joined the 2-under pack that are tied for fifth. For a while, Lee Westwood led, but his progress stalled and he closed in a share for third with playing partner and fellow Englishman Luke Donald, who found few fairways yet hung tough. Brendan Steele fought hard to shoot a 71 that leaves him alone in second on 4-under 206, but none could match Tommy Fleetwood. The 29-year-old was superb and resilient in scoring a 67 that sent him into Sunday with a one shot lead on 5-under 205.
Low round of the day: Mackenzie Hughes, who made the cut on the number, completed a fine 66 to reach 1-under for the week
Revised outright betting
Fleetwood 6/5, Steele 13/2, Westwood 8/1, Im 12/1, Berger 14/1, Donald 14/1, Schwartzel 16/1
Sunday weather forecast
Mostly sunny with temperatures in the high 60s. Another blustery wind of around 12 mph.
Leaders after at 54 holes
Tommy Fleetwood (67) – A rollercoaster circuit with six birdies and three bogeys in his final 14 holes. He leads the field for SG Off the Tee (3.791) and is second for Tee to Green (9.157).
Brendan Steele (71) – The only man in the top four lacking English nationality and yet … his caddie is Luke Donald’s brother! His long game is only a shade behind the leaders in SG rankings: second for Off the Tee (3.441) and Tee to Green (8.498).
Lee Westwood (71) – It might confound many to discover that he’s thriving on and around the greens, ranking second for SG Putting (7.156) and T2 for Scrambling (72.73%).
Luke Donald (71) – For a second day running he made three back nine bogeys. Ranks fifth for SG Approach the Green (5.673) and sixth for Putting (4.031).
Fate of the Favourites
Tommy Fleetwood moved confidently into contention. The Englishman is a five-time winner on the European Tour, but is seeking a breakthrough on the PGA Tour (his current best is second, achieved in the 2017 WGC Mexico Championship, 2018 U.S. Open and 2019 Open). Rickie Fowler and Brooks Koepka missed the cut.
Daniel Berger (69) – “The golf course is playing extremely tough, and the greens are firm and fast. Anything under par is pretty good. As you can tell by the scores, no one is really going anywhere, and I don't really see anything different happening tomorrow.”
Charl Schwartzel (70) – “There's danger on every hole. It's a course you least need to look at the leaderboard. You focus on yourself and grind it out on every shot, and tomorrow I think it'll be a tougher course. The greens are firm, wind is blowing. Even on some putts, the wind blows the putt more than what the slope takes it. There's a lot of factors to take into account.”
Tommy Fleetwood (67) – “It would be a win at a great golf course, a tough golf course, and I think if you're going to win around here, you're proving yourself as an all-around golfer. I'm not going to lie and say, ‘I don't really mind about winning in America.’ Of course I do. I want to win everywhere I play, and the PGA TOUR is for sure one of those places where I haven't done it yet.”
Luke Donald (71) – “You can't really chase flags, and there's not going to be someone that's going to come out of the blocks and shoot 62 tomorrow, unless the wind dies down for some reason. Even then, there's just such a lot of nerve-racking and daunting shots out there that you're playing to good, safe targets, not always chasing pins. That's why it's very hard to go low here.”
Brendan Steele (71) – “Tomorrow is going to be really hard. It's hard emotionally, physically, mentally. The conditions will be difficult. The course will be difficult. I'm looking forward to the challenge.”
Road to victory at PGA National
2019 Keith Mitchell – R1: 20th, R2: 1st, R3: 2nd
2018 Justin Thomas – R1: 3rd, R2: 7th, R3: 2nd
2017 Rickie Fowler – R1: 5th, R2: 3rd, R3: 1st
2016 Adam Scott – R1: 23rd, R2: 4th, R3: 1st
2015 Padraig Harrington – R1: 3rd, R2: 1st, R3: 2nd
Notes: Those 54-hole positions are strong and it’s been a persistent trend in the 13 years that the tournament has been based at the course. In fact, only one player (Ernie Els when T8 in 2008) has not been T2 or better at this stage. Eight of the 13 were in the lead (tied or solo).
Fate of the 54-hole leaders at PGA National – where did they finish?
2019 Wyndham Clark 7th
2018 Luke List 2nd
2017 Rickie Fowler 1st
2015 Ian Poulter 3rd
Notes: There have been 17 54-hole leaders in the PGA National era and eight of them converted the win.
Focus on – Tommy Fleetwood
A first PGA Tour 54-hole lead for the popular Englishman and only a fourth anywhere in the world. Incredibly, however, it is his first such experience in over six years. He led the Challenge Tour’s 2011 Kazakhstan Open by two after three rounds, winning by the same margin. His maiden European Tour win came when he was tied for the lead at this stage and won in a play-off at the 2013 Johnnie Walker Championship. Then, in the following year’s Volvo Champions, he led by one ahead of the final round and finished third.
Focus on – Brendan Steele
The 36-year-old Californian has twice been second after 54 holes of a PGA Tour event, finishing T10 in the 2011 Deutsche Bank Championship and T13 in the 2016 Texas Open. (He has five times been first or tied first on the PGA at this stage, a similar experience in terms of nerves, and is 1-for-5 at converting. He led January’s Sony Open by three before losing in a play-off.)
Focus on – the veteran Englishmen
The 46-year-old Westwood owns 44 career victories around the world, the most recent of them earlier this year in the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship. He has two wins on the PGA Tour and seven wins from 30 instances of being third heading into the final round. 42-year-old Donald, like his compatriot a former world number one, has 17 career wins, five of them on the PGA Tour and is 0-for-11 at winning from third after 54 holes.