Oct 04, 2008 Phil Blackwell Uncategorized
Just when the second edition of the PGA Tour’s Turning Stone Resort Championship appeared to be turning into a grown-up version of Tag late Saturday afternoon, a one-time phenom caught up.
Tag Ridings was in prime position to take the lead into the final round, only to stumble just enough to allow Charles Howell III to tie him at eight-under-par 208.
Howell shot a 69, three under par, at Atunyote Golf Club in Verona to move from a tie for fourth place into that prime position, while Ridings posted a 71 to go with his earlier rounds of 69 and 68.
Four players — 36-hole leader Jeff Overton, Brian Davis, Kyle Thompson and Jason Day — sit tied for third place at seven-under-par 209, all of them one shot back. Dustin Johnson and Robert Allenby sit two back, at 210.
In stark contrast to the vast 54-hole margin Steve Flesch held in the inaugural version of this event in 2007, a large number of golfers have a chance to win here.
All told, 19 players sit within four shots of the lead. And that includes the tournament’s biggest name, Davis Love III, who offered up the best round of the entire week to set the tone for the rest of Saturday afternoon.
Wet conditions allowed players to lift, clean and place every ball on the fairways. Exploiting this, Love, who teed off on no. 10, birdied his first four holes, turned in 31, got to seven under on his round through 14 before a bogey on no. 7 slowed things down.
Still, Love shot a 66 to put him at 211, five under par, tied with Mark Hensby and Charles Warren. Another round like that on Sunday, and Love has a great chance to win.
The rain, ice and hail that fell at times during the first two rounds finally subsided. It was still quite cold, with the temperature in the 50s, but the wind had slackened, and the players attacked Atunyote in the best scoring conditions of the week.
Numerous players held the lead at one point or another. Overton, in front going into the third round, had a quick bogey on no. 2 to fall out of that lead, then had 12 consecutive pars before a bogey-birdie exchange on 16 left him with a 73 for the day.
First, it was Hensby that roared to the front. Five under when the day began, the Australian used birdies on holes 4, 5, 7 and 12 to get to nine under, and looked to be taking control.
One swing ruined Hensby’s round, though. He drove into the water on the par-4 13th, took bogey, then had three more bogeys down the stretch to fall back.
Now Ridings tried to take command. One behind Overton at seven under part when the round began, he went out in 36, then used birdies on 11 and 15 to move to nine under, two shots in front at one point.
Meanwhile, Howell continued to lurk. Once, Howell, a native of Augusta, Ga. (home of the Masters), was thought to be the next big star on the PGA Tour, but he has won just two tour events in his career.
Looking for win no. 3, Howell birdied three of his first five holes, gave two of those shots back with bogeys on 7 and 9, then steadied himself to join a logjam of golfers at seven under, two shots back of Ridings.
That stood until the 624-yard, par-5 18th hole. Playing a group ahead of Ridings, Howell drove into the rough, then laid up. From 144 yards out, Howell hit it to 13 feet, then drove home the birdie putt to move to eight under par.
Behind him, Ridings did hit the fairway at 18, but also chose to lay up. His wedge to the green from 125 yards out was not a good one, stopping 36 feet away. Ridings’ first putt went nearly six feet past the hole, and the par attempt got pulled.
The only remaining Upstate New York player in the field, Joey Sindelar (Horseheads), finished with a 72 and stood at 220 after three rounds. Sindelar needed to make a par at the end of his second round early Saturday morning just to make the cut at 148.
Unlike the threesomes on Saturday, they will go off in pairs Sunday, with Howell and Ridings the last pairing at 1:45, behind Thompson and Davis.