Thomas Pieters ended a roller-coaster round with a 30-foot birdie putt for a four-under-par 66 that gave him a share of the lead with Zach Johnson going into the final round of the Bridgestone Invitational.
Pieters built a big lead early with five birdies on his opening eight holes at Firestone in Akron, Ohio, only to run into trouble off the tee. He made only three pars over his last 11 holes and wound up with his best chance yet to win in America.
Johnson, who hasn’t won since capturing his second major at St. Andrews in 2015, holed a 10-foot birdie putt on the 18th for a 65. They were at nine-under 201.
One shot behind was Scott Hend of Australia, who got into his first Bridgestone Invitational on a loophole and posted a 63 even with two three-putt bogeys. The World Golf Championship set aside one spot for the winner of a designated event on the Asian Tour. When that tournament never came together, organizers agreed to take the winner of the Order of Merit from the previous year.
Hend is making the most of his chances in his debut at Firestone. After his lone bogey on the par-3 seventh with a three-putt bogey, Hend took only 10 putts over the final 11 holes, three of them from 30 feet or longer, one of those for par.
“Just channeling my inner Jordan Spieth,” he said.
McIlroy certainly has his long game in order. McIlroy kept pounding away with driver and through three rounds has hit 39 of his 42 drives longer than 300 yards. Getting the wedges dialed in, and making his share of putts, has been holding him back.
Even so, McIlroy managed a 68 and was three shots behind, along with Adam Hadwin and Charley Hoffman, who each shot 67.
Owen tops Barracuda leaderboard
Greg Owen of England had nine birdies on Saturday to take five-point third round lead of the Barracuda Championship.
Owen had eight birdies and three pars on 11 holes before a double-bogey on 18 to finish a 14-point round in the modified Stableford scoring system that gave him 37 points going into Sunday’s final round.
Stuart Appleby and Derek Fathauer both had birdies on 18 to finish round three tied for second with 32 points. Ricky Barnes had 15 points, including five consecutive birdies, to move up 14 spots into fourth place with 31 points. Second-round leader Richy Werenski had three of his four bogies on the back nine and fell into a tie for fifth with Tom Hoge,
Ben Martin and Dicky Pride with 30 points apiece. The tournament is the PGA Tour’s only Stableford scoring event. The system awards eight points for a double eagle, five points for an eagle, two points for a birdie and deducts a point for a bogey and three points for a double bogey or worse.
Goydos shoots record 60 to share lead
Paul Goydos shot a tournament-record 60 Saturday and is tied with Kenny Perry and Gene Sauers after two rounds of the PGA Tour Champions’ 3M Championship in Blaine, Minn.
Goydos, who shot 59 at the PGA’s 2010 John Deere Classic, was 7-under through 12 holes, before birdies at 15, 16 and 17 and an eagle on the par-five 18th. He needed one putt on 16 greens and two on the others at the TPC Twin Cities.
Perry, a co-leader with Mike Goodes after round one, shot his second straight 65. He won the tournament in 2014 and 2015. Sauers shot an eight-under 64.
Scott Dunlap (63) and Brandt Jobe (64) were one shot behind; Steve Stricker (63) and Marco Dawson (66) were two back. Goodes shot 68 and was one of seven players trailing by three shots.