PGA up for grabs as leaders enter biggest test
Aug 14, 2011, 18:56 GMT
Atlanta, Georgia - With a group of largely unknown leaders and an experienced pack of challengers just behind, the business end of the final round at the PGA Championship should be a dramatic affair.
With many of the game's biggest names failing to make the cut or well off the best scores, it seems likely that a first-time major winner will be crowned at the Atlanta Athletic Club.
There are only two players, Charl Schwarzel and David Toms, with major championship silverware in the hunt, and they have just begun play five strokes off the lead at two under.
Schwarzel made a Sunday charge in April at Augusta by shooting the day's low round to win this year's Masters, while Toms won the PGA the last time it was played on this course.
With the most difficult part of the course still to come, Robert Allenby is the day's big mover currently at five under, which puts him at minus-two for the event alongside fellow Australians Adam Scott and John Senden.
Also in the mass of players at two under for the event, as well as for the day, are Phil Mickelson and Sergio Garcia, who is quietly having a solid tournament.
Garcia's 28-year-old countryman, Pablo Larrazabal, posted the day's early low number at 66, but he is at plus five for the tournament after a 76 on Saturday.
US players Gary Woodland and Bubba Watson were having good rounds at three under for the day near the turn.
After failing to win any of the last six majors, Americans have swarmed the PGA leaderboard, with a group of unheralded US players taking centre stage.
At seven under after three rounds, Brendan Steele and Jason Dufner could not have been a more unpredictable pair of co-leaders at the beginning of the event.
A 28-year-old tour rookie, Steele is playing in his first major, while Dufner is 34 but has never won a tour event.
Just a shot back is another rookie, Keegan Bradley, who is good friends with Steele and is also competing in his first major event.
How well the trio deal with the pressure of Sunday and the chasing pack is on everyone's minds.
Both Bradley and Dufner say their outsider attitudes are helping them to stay grounded and positive heading into their rounds.
'I am really enjoying it, actually,' Bradley said Sunday morning. 'Maybe it hasn't hit me yet what's going on, which I think is good.'
For his part, Dufner, who did finish fifth at last year's PGA at Whistling Straits, said that the group at the top is protecting each other: 'It maybe makes me a little more relaxed knowing that everybody is kind of in the same boat, struggling with those emotions and thoughts and the mentality of trying to win a major.'
But the trio surely know that any slips will be pounced on by the chasing pack. 'Wishy-washy play is not going to get it done on Sunday,' Steele said.
If Schwarzel and Toms don't launch an assault on the pinnacle, the highest ranked US player, at number five in the world, Steve Stricker, might.
Stricker, who has not won a major, posted a 63 on Thursday, equalling the low-round record for a major before scoring a 74 and 69 the last two days.
'Everybody is going to be dealing with nerves,' said Stricker, who was at four under to start Sunday. 'It depends on who can keep it together the best and be patient and play some good golf.'
Another veteran in the hunt without a major is Scott Verplank, who would become the second oldest player to win a major at 47 if he makes up strokes from five under.
A pair of journeymen players, Denmark's Anders Hansen and DA Points, have teed off at three under.