Jim Furyk takes a one-shot lead into today’s final round of the PGA Championship, a position that hasn’t been favorable in recent major golf tournaments.
The 54-hole leader failed to win any of this year’s three previous majors -- the Masters Tournament and the U.S. and British opens -- while in the past 19 Grand Slams, only four third-round leaders have gone on to win.
Furyk, who claimed his lone major title at the 2003 U.S. Open, is 9-under par through three rounds at Oak Hill Country Club outside Rochester, New York, where play has begun this morning. He’s one shot ahead of Jason Dufner.
“People always ask, ‘Would you rather be one ahead or one back?’ Well, I’d rather be one ahead,” said Furyk, who failed to convert all four of his 54-hole leads a year ago, including at the U.S. Open. “I’m comfortable with where I’m at.”
Henrik Stenson is third at 7-under, one shot ahead of Swedish countryman Jonas Blixt and two in front of Steve Stricker and Adam Scott, this year’s Masters winner.
“There’s a crowded leaderboard at the top,” said Furyk, who’s scheduled to tee off at 2:55 p.m. New York time with Dufner. “Instead of really viewing it as who is leading and who is not, I’m viewing it as I need to go out there and put together a good, solid round of golf, fire a good number and hope it stacks up well.”
Furyk, 43, shot a 2-under-par 68 yesterday with five birdies, including one on the 510-yard, par-4 17th hole that gave him the lead. Dufner, 36, shot 1 over 71 after entering the round with a two-shot lead.
Dufner, runner-up to Keegan Bradley at the 2011 PGA Championship, avoided a potential bogey on the 18th hole yesterday when his four-foot par putt rolled slowly around the hole and fell in the back side.
The putt came after an errant tee shot on the hole. The laidback Ohio native dropped his driver in disgust on his follow through and then banged it into the ground several times before throwing it at his golf bag.
Dufner’s round included two birdies, a bogey and a double-bogey on the fifth hole, where he hit his tee shot into a creek.
“I hung in there. It could have gone sideways quick after the fifth hole,” said Dufner, who won twice on the U.S. PGA Tour last season. “I’m in good position playing in the last group. Hopefully the golf course will play a little tougher and we’ll see how it goes.”
Scott was 7 under yesterday before making a double bogey at the par-4 16th hole en route to 72. He’ll be paired with Stricker in the third-to-last group at 2:35 p.m.
A victory would make Scott the fourth player to win the Masters and PGA Championship in the same season, after Jack Nicklaus, Jack Burke Jr., and Sam Snead.
“The platform has never been better for me to go on and win multiple majors,” Scott said. “You’ve got to take the confidence and form of winning a major and run with it. I can’t take my foot off the gas just because I achieved something great at Augusta.”
Defending champion Rory McIlroy birdied his final two holes yesterday in shooting a 3-under-par 67 that puts him 3 under for the tournament. The Northern Irishman is tied for seventh with Lee Westwood of England.
“Those last two holes are playing really tough,” McIlroy told reporters. “Making a birdie on 17 is like an eagle and then to follow it up with another on the last is even better.”
McIlroy was the last 54-hole leader to go on to win at a major championship, expanding his three-shot third-round lead to a eight-shot victory at last year’s PGA Championship in Kiawah Island, South Carolina.
Four-time PGA champion Tiger Woods is 4-over for the tournament after shooting 73 yesterday. It was the seventh straight round he’s failed to shoot below par in a major championship at Oak Hill, as he had rounds of 74, 72, 73 and 73 at the 2003 PGA Championship, which was also held at the course outside Rochester, New York.
At 13 strokes off the lead, Woods will probably remain winless for an 18th straight major. He claimed the last of his 14 major titles at the 2008 U.S. Open.
“It’s not joyous, that’s for sure,” said Woods, who entered the tournament as the oddsmakers’ favorite after winning last week’s World Golf Championships event by seven shots. “It’s just one of those weeks where I didn’t quite hit it well enough and didn’t make enough putts.”
British Open champion Phil Mickelson shot 78 during the third round and is 10 over for the tournament, the second-worst score among the 75 players who made the cut for weekend play.