Paul Goydos, with only one top-25 finish since winning last January in Hawaii, fired a two-under par 70 to seize a one-stroke lead entering the final round of the US PGA Players Championship.
Goydos, the only player with three sub-par rounds through 54 holes, stood on seven-under 209 entering the final round, leaving the 43-year-old US journeyman one stroke ahead of compatriot Kenny Perry and three in front of Sergio Garcia.
“We’re still jockeying for position,” Goydos said. “The golf course is, whew, it’s hard.”
Garcia had four bogeys in his final six holes after sharing the lead to stumble home with a 73. The Spaniard was stung by a 3-putt blunder from 10 feet at the island 17th hole and a 15-foot par miss at the 18th.
“I went a little brain dead on 17 on my first putt, jammed it by,” Garcia said. “The last two days I’ve shot as high as I can shoot, but I still have a chance, so that’s something good.”
Goydos, ranked 169th, will claim a top prize of US$1.7 million at the US$9 million event that would eclipse the total winnings from his best PGA season if he can turn his first-ever 54-hole PGA lead into victory yesterday.
Asked if he had ever led entering a final round, Goydos deadpanned, “No, but I’ve only been on tour for 16 years.”
Goydos would be the oldest Players winner and fifth-oldest winner in US PGA history if he completes his unlikely march. He started strong with a 17-foot birdie putt at the third hole and added an 18-foot birdie at the fourth.
Goydos answered a bogey at seven with an eight-foot birdie at the par-3 eighth and followed a bogey at nine with a 20-foot birdie putt at the 10th. And after a bogey at the 14th, he solved the tricky island-green 17th hole for a birdie from 10 feet.
The 18th hole played the toughest on the course Saturday, when the average score produced on the TPC Sawgrass course was a 74. But Goydos had a birdie putt, lipping out from 12 feet after finding rough and trees right off the tee.
“I got really lucky. I had a perfect lie and a gap to hit it through,” Goydos said.
Germany’s Bernhard Langer, the 50-year-old money leader on the Champions Tour for the senior set, fired a 75 but shared fourth with Americans Jeff Quinney and Phil Mickelson on 214.
Should either rally to win, they would match the record last-round victory rally in Players Championship history, achieved by US veteran Justin Leonard in 1998.