Henrik Stenson finished atop the leaderboard once again at the 2013 Tour Championship by Coca-Cola on Saturday. For the third day in a row, the Swedish champion leads all golfers at East Lake, and he takes a four-shot lead into Sunday's final round after shooting one under par.
At this point, everybody else in the field is playing for second place, though Stenson did leave room for some excitement on Sunday by finishing with two bogeys in his final three holes.
Utilizing a potent blend of accuracy off the tee, smart, aggressive shots into the greens and a hot putter, Stenson appears to have locked up the tournament—and consequently, the FedEx Cup.
Barring a meltdown of epic proportions on Sunday, Stenson will hoist the gorgeous FedEx Cup trophy.
Due to a weather front moving into the Atlanta, Ga. area, tournament officials bumped up tee times on Saturday and the players went out in threesomes to facilitate a faster pace of play. Per the tournament's official Twitter account:
Due to weather. Tee times for tomorrow will begin at 7:30 am and the final time will be 9:00 a.m. Players will be in groups of threes.— TOURChampionship (@playofffinale) September 20, 2013
Early starts aren't for everyone, but the sunrise at East Lake this morning was absolutely stunning, as shown by the PGA Tour:
When Stenson teed off in the final group with Adam Scott and Jordan Spieth, the trio started inauspiciously as all three men shanked their opening drives into the right-hand rough.
Spieth and Scott both paid a price for their blunders, scoring bogey on the hole, but Stenson righted the ship immediately to score par.
The third-round leader then kicked his game into high gear after the early scare.
Pulling a six-iron out of his bag for the 204-yard par-3 second hole, Stenson knocked his tee shot stiff to within three feet. He then drained the easy birdie putt to move to 11 under par, and he wasn't finished making an early statement.
After hitting two solid shots into the par-four third hole, Stenson drained his 19-foot putt for his second birdie in as many holes.
He finished the front nine with two more birdies before making his first bogey of the day (and just his third bogey of the tournament) on No. 10.
Stenson righted the ship with three more pars before suffering another bogey on No. 14 thanks to a wayward tee shot, as noted by the PGA Tour, but he followed that up with his fifth birdie of the day at No. 15 to move six shots ahead of Dustin Johnson:
Stenson follows a bogey on 14 (wayward tee shot left) with birdie at 15, back to 13-under. Closest competitor is @DJohnsonPGA, six back.— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) September 21, 2013
But two bogeys on his final three holes dropped the leader to 11 under par for the tournament. He had padded his lead to nine strokes at one point during his round on Saturday, but a late flurry of bogeys whittled it down to just four heading into Sunday, as noted by the PGA Tour:
Stenson's 9-shot lead at the turn is whittled to 4 shots after his back nine 38. Gives the remaining 29 players a ray of hope. #FedExCup— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) September 21, 2013
Still, Stenson is in the driver's seat to win this tournament with a solid round tomorrow. That being said, however, ESPN's Justin Ray pointed out after the round that seven winners this year have won after being down by at least four strokes heading into the final round:
Stenson will take a 4-shot lead into Sunday. We've had 7 winners from 4+ shots back on @PGATOUR this year.— Justin Ray (@JRayESPNGolf) September 21, 2013
Sunday should be fun to watch.
The Battle for Second Place
Dustin Johnson played as well as any golfer on the course Saturday, and he is firmly entrenched in second place through three rounds at seven under par.
He entered the Tour Championship as the No. 30-ranked player in the field, as noted by the PGA Tour, but three solid rounds have put him in a position where he could potentially win the tournament with a brilliant round on Sunday and a collapse by Stenson:
Logging just one bogey on the day, Johnson got his round kicked off with three straight pars before sinking an 18-foot birdie putt on No. 4.
He then went on to par seven straight holes before going on a tear on the final stretch to move into second place.
After struggling in Round 2, tour veteran Steve Stricker had himself a decent round on Saturday, shooting two under par to move up into third place.
He finished his round having logged three bogeys and five birdies—the most impressive of which came on No. 8 when he drained a 29-foot putt.
Four golfers trail Striker by one stroke in a tie for fourth place at four under par. Jordan Spieth, Billy Horschel, Justin Rose and Zach Johnson all have a legitimate chance to sneak up into second place on Sunday.
So does Luke Donald, who logged the second-lowest score of the day.
He opened up his third round at even par and proceeded to make par on his first six holes before scoring birdies on No. 7 and No. 8. Two bogeys on No. 11 and No. 12 brought him back to where he started, but he bounced back on the 13th hole when he drained a 23-foot putt for birdie.
This started a three-birdie tear on the final six holes, which moved him up into contention for a second-place finish on Sunday.
Adam Scott's Third-Round Tumble
While Stenson and the rest of the leaders were putting together rounds under par, Scott struggled to stay afloat.
Playing with Stenson on Saturday, he put together one of the worst rounds of the day.
Scott began his third round in second place all by himself at six under par, but after making bogey on the opening hole, his game fell apart.
Before he knew what hit him, Scott was at five over par on the round through eight holes.
But the Australian golfer had a good excuse for his tumble down the leaderboard. As noted by the Golf Channel, Scott was administered IV fluids before his third round, as he suffered from a fever and chills:
Thankfully, Scott was able to wrangle a birdie on No. 17, but the damage was already done.
After playing so well the first two days, it's a shame that Scott was dealt such a difficult set of circumstances on Saturday. He went from second place all the way down to 10th, and barring a miraculous finish, he'll need to wait until next year for a chance at winning the FedEx Cup.
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