Johnnie Walker Championship 2013: Underrated Players Ready to Move Up in Round 3

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Johnnie Walker Championship 2013: Underrated Players Ready to Move Up in Round 3
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European Tour veteran Ricardo Gonzalez birdied his final five holes on Friday at the 2013 Johnnie Walker Championship, fired his second consecutive 65 and took a one-shot lead at 14 under par overall.

The 43-year-old is a four-time winner on the tour, but he will face formidable competition from several underrated players over the final 36 holes.

Favorable and soft conditions have allowed for a lot of scoring opportunities. Now that the weekend is here, those who are within striking distance have a chance to post an early number and apply some pressure to Gonzalez and Bernd Wiesberger, who's only one stroke off the pace.

Here are some good candidates to fly up the leaderboard and legitimately challenge the lead despite facing rather significant deficits.

Note: Statistics and results are courtesy of EuropeanTour.com.

 

Brett Rumford (-9)

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No one was ranked higher than Brett Rumford (10th) in the Race to Dubai entering the Johnnie Walker Championship. A bogey at No. 10, which was his last hole of the day, put a sour note on his round of 69.

However, there is plenty of reason to believe that Rumford can rally back from five shots down and even threaten the lead after the third round of play alone.

Rumford has an outstanding short game, ranking fourth on the European Tour with a 62.6 percent scrambling rate. The Aussie is second in putts per round with just under 28, helping overcome the fact that he hits only about 10.6 greens in regulation per 18 holes.

So when he actually strikes the ball well, it's no surprise that Rumford finds himself in the thick of the hunt.

The fact that Rumford isn't all that long and only hits about 51.5 percent of fairways doesn't help his cause, either, but he's driving the ball straight this week. As long as that continues, he has all the makings of pushing for his third win of 2013.

 

Francesco Molinari (-8)

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Entering this week as the odds-on favorite, Francesco Molinari has started to live up to that billing after a bit of a slow start. He birdied the final three holes in Round 1, then followed that with a bogey-free 67 on Friday.

That makes Molinari minus-eight in his past 21 holes, and it is a testament to just how comfortable he feels at this venue.

Molinari has four previous top-10 finishes at Gleneagles Hotel in Scotland, which will be the site of the 2014 Ryder Cup. As reported by EuropeanTour.com, the Italian veteran discussed what he likes about the course:

It suits my eye. I think it's usually quite windy here and I enjoy the challenge of playing in the wind...Having played well in the past just builds your confidence, so every time I get back here, I know it's a place where I can do well and I look forward to being out on the course.

When he was younger, Molinari and his younger brother Edoardo would take trips to Gleneagles. As it turned out, Edoardo Molinari won in 2010 to garner a wild-card selection for the Ryder Cup team, while his senior brother finished tied for third.

A lot of positive energy surrounds this prestigious Perthshire course for Molinari, and his play is beginning to reflect that. If he can get the putter going as he did in the second round, look for him to climb even further from the 17 spots he gained on Friday.

 

Alvaro Quiros (-7)

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The Spaniard hits the ball as long as anyone in the world, rivaling that of Nicolas Colsaerts and Bubba Watson.

As talented as Alvaro Quiros is, it's been a very lackluster 2013 campaign. He hasn't ranked inside the top 100 in the Race to Dubai as of yet, but he has a golden opportunity to move into that company if he continues his steady play.

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A big reason why Quiros hasn't retained the company he once held as high as No. 21 in the overall world golf rankings is due to the wrist surgery he underwent back in November. It was originally thought it could take five to six months for him to recover, but he came back sooner than expected.

Now that he's getting closer to 100 percent, the results are starting to reveal themselves on the course.

Quiros utilized his length to his advantage in making eagle at the par-five second hole, leading to a five-under 31 on the front nine. Unfortunately, the weaker link of his game is around the greens, and that caused him to drop two shots and settle for a level-par back nine.

As he gets healthier, Quiros' feel is only going to improve on the shorter shots. It's evident he can hit the ball as ridiculously long as usual, so don't be surprised if he makes a serious charge in Scotland.

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