Mercedes Championship round three: is it 2001 all over again for Jim Furyk?
Since the turn of the millennium this competition has gone one of two ways on Sunday: the overnight leader has taken the spoils or the victor has sprung out of the chasing pack from four shots back. That’s happened three times: Stuart Appleby in 2005, Sergio Garcia in 2002 and none other than Jim Furyk the year before that.
That little factoid strikes me as particularly interesting now our Jim appears to have found his feet at last with a sizzler of a back nine Saturday. He looks a potent threat in what should be an enthralling final day at Kapalua, if the protagonists can resist the urge to clam up. What Jim needs now, of course, is to sort out his problems on the front nine.
But it’s just as easy to see the other scenario happening. Mike Weir is no stranger to these situations. His putter hasn’t been as sharp as he would like, which might be his undoing, but otherwise after a wobbly start his game is looking all-round solid.
Still, there are enough players at his heels to make him fight for it. The course will still be soggy for the final day, but the weather is going to be the best it has been, with little rain and significantly quieter winds. So who is to say one of Weir’s challengers can’t pull off the 62 fired by K J Choi in 2003?
It wouldn’t do the Korean much good to repeat the exercise, but it could be a winning number for quite a few others. The best Vijay Singh has done here is a 64 in 2004, but even that might be enough for him so I still give the Fijian an outside chance. He is sounding over the moon with his revamped swing and he hit every green in regulation Saturday on the way to 6 under, despite not putting particularly well. If he could get on a roll with the flat stick, watch out.
There’s plenty to like up above. I just hope they make the effort to give us the shootout this promises.
The one I have my eye on is Daniel Chopra. He seems to have gained a huge amount of confidence, to the point where he truly believes he now belongs at the top. That’s a huge part of the battle. Apart from a flaky Friday, he has been playing consistently well and, ignoring accuracy off the tee, has by far the best all-round profile of our leaders - 7th for greens in regulation, 5th for distance off the tee, third for putting.
PS: If Singh needed any incentive Sunday, he got it the night before in a playful jibe from Furyk. Singh’s group fell so far behind Furyk’s in round three that reporters were asking if they’d got lost. “We must have just been playing quick,” said Furyk. “Tell Vijay he’s getting old, he walks slow.”
Vijay will love that! He’s actually one of the faster players around.
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