It’s a marathon (90 holes), it’s an endurance test (four rounds with amateurs) and it’s a math quiz (how many birdies does it take to win?), but whatever you call the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic, you could also call it a coming-out party for Joe Ogilvie if can hold on for his first PGA Tour victory.
Last year at New Orleans, Ogilvie led by four shots going into the last round, shot a four-under 68 and still lost by a shot when Vijay Singh threw a 63 at everybody. That turn of events has helped shaped Ogilvie’s philosophy about final rounds.
“No lead is safe,” he said. “Especially here.”
He has a point. Just two years ago, Tim Herron had a four-shot lead going into the last day, shot a 75 and tied for third.
There have been 45 previous editions of the Hope and in 27 of them, the player who was in the lead starting the final round didn’t win.
Plus, only Rik Massengale in 1977 and Bruce Lietzke in 1981 won the Hope after leading or sharing the lead after every round.
So that’s the setup for what you might expect today in the final scene at the Palmer Course at PGA West at La Quinta, where it’s probably going to look more like a stampede than anything else.
Ogilvie’s 69 Saturday at La Quinta Country Club and 72-hole total of 26-under 262 kept him ahead of the pack, but just barely, and the gang is closing in on him.
Peter Lonard, who is also looking for his first PGA Tour victory, is only two shots back after his 69 at La Quinta and Justin Leonard’s 64 at the Palmer Course meant he picked up five shots on Ogilvie and starts today’s final round only three shots back.
There are 13 players within six shots of Ogilvie, which means there’s at least a mathematical chance for all of them, but probably not a realistic one.
“It’s hard to say anyone’s out of it,” Lonard said. “But I’m sure if the leaders play well, it’s going to make the other guys, underneath 20 [under par], they’re going to struggle catching us.
“I think 20 under is a reasonable thought. At 20 under, there’s a chance.”
Tim Clark’s 66 at Bermuda Dunes was good for fourth place and keeps him squarely in the hunt at 22-under 266. Tied for fifth are Loren Roberts, Ian Poulter, Jim Furyk and Fredrik Jacobson. Furyk shot back-to-back 65s after being tied for 41st after 36 holes.
Poulter’s 63 was tops for the day at the Palmer Course, but nobody was better than Scott Verplank’s 62 at Tamarisk Country Club.
Six shots back, Phil Mickelson probably wishes he had done more with his Saturday at Bermuda Dunes, where he shot a four-under 68 and picked up only one shot on Ogilvie. With 13 players either in front of him or tied with him, the defending champion paved a difficult road to follow if he’s going to win here for the third time in four years.
Mickelson is tied for ninth with Jerry Kelly, Ryuji Imada, Chris Riley, Robert Damron and John Senden, all at 20-under 268, six shots off the pace set by Ogilvie.
There are probably others with better odds, including Leonard. He has had two top 10s in the last three years of the Hope, which he is playing for the seventh time.
Leonard missed the cut last week at Torrey Pines and is beginning the year with all new Nike equipment, but he said his adjustment period has been briefer than expected. He also said working on the range at Torrey Pines during fog delays might have helped him.
“I don’t know, maybe only being able to see the ball for about 60 yards had something to do with it.”
And then there’s Clark, who, even if he doesn’t win, still gets the award for the longest travel, along with his long-handled putter.
Clark won the South African Open in Durban last week and flew 30 hours to Palm Springs, arriving at 4 p.m. Tuesday. Lack of preparation and knowledge of the courses certainly hasn’t hurt him, because Clark has never played the Hope before.
The cut was at 11-under 277, the same as last year, when Mickelson won at 30 under, the winning score the last three years.
The Hope is Ogilvie’s 152nd PGA Tour event in his six-year career, so you could say he’s due, only that’s not the way golf usually works. But being ahead is preferable to being behind, and Ogilvie knows that with a good round, he can do a lot of damage.
“If I play well, I can eliminate a lot of guys. I figure the winning score is still going to be close to 32 under, somewhere around in there. When you think about it, it’s a joke. I certainly didn’t think I’d be the one putting up these numbers.”