Luke Guthrie and Michael Thompson were up to the task as the final pairing on Day 3 of the Honda Classic. Both youngsters were stellar, grinding their way around a windy PGA National Champion course to share the lead at eight under through three rounds.
Sleeping on his first experience atop a PGA Tour leaderboard, the prodigious 23-year-old Guthrie managed to stay on top with a one-over-par round of 71, which Thompson bested by one stroke.
Guthrie is a powerful player whose length was stymied somewhat by the blustery conditions that characterized this Saturday in Palm Beach Gardens.
It certainly wasn't an easy venue to face pressure of this magnitude, and the Tour rookie encountered some turbulence in the first six holes of his round.
After notching a birdie at No. 3 to bounce back from a prior bogey, Guthrie missed a very short birdie putt at the par-three fifth. On the next hole, Thompson holed out for birdie from the bunker, while Guthrie had to settle for bogey.
But as the round progressed, it was clear that Guthrie wasn't going to give any ground. A miss inside three feet at No. 10 was followed by eight consecutive rock-solid pars to close.
Although he mostly struggled again with his long game, Thompson pounded a fairway metal onto the final green to set up an opportunity for eagle. However, he could not quite capitalize, leaving his ball about two revolutions short, right in the heart.
This tournament is far from over, though. 18 long holes remain for two leaders who have never won on the PGA Tour. World No. 9 Lee Westwood is just two strokes back after a round of 70, and the same is the case with Geoff Ogilvy.
The 2006 U.S. Open champion hasn't won on this circuit in four years, and as the PGA TOUR Media's official Twitter page hints, perhaps he should consider playing the Honda Classic a bit more often.
Unlike Thompson, Rickie Fowler capitalized on a stunning second shot into the closing par five. It was a scintillating finish to vault him into a tie for fifth with a five-under total. Sports Illustrated's Stephanie Wei was enthralled.
Here are some of the shots that electrified the Florida crowd on Saturday, courtesy of PGATOUR.com.
Fowler strikes a magnificent approach to the par-five 18th, sticking it inside of 15 feet to cap off his day in style with an eagle.
This outstanding shot from the greenside bunker at the par-four sixth gave Thompson an early shot of momentum. It was his second birdie of the day as he continued hanging tough despite horrid ball-striking.
This clutch putt by Guthrie got him back to even par on the front side, and it was especially crucial due to some missed opportunities throughout.
Below is the top of the leaderboard as it stands through 54 holes. For complete scores, head over to PGA.com.
|T1||Luke Guthrie ||68-63-71||-8|
|T1||Michael Thompson ||67-65-70 ||-8|
|T3||Geoff Ogilvy ||68-66-70 ||-6|
|T5||Rickie Fowler ||65-71-69 ||-5|
|T5||Charles Howell III ||67-67-71||-5|
|T7||Keegan Bradley ||68-68-70||-4|
|T7||Justin Rose ||68-66-72||-4|
|T7||Y.E. Yang ||67-72-67||-4|
|T7||Peter Hanson ||71-67-68||-4|