CROMWELL, CT - After tying the 36-hole scoring record at the Travelers Championship with rounds of 64-62 on Thursday and Friday, Justin Rose didn’t quite have it on Saturday afternoon.
That being said, Rose did what he had to do in order to remain clear of the field heading into Sunday.
“There were a lot of things that felt like today wasn’t going my way, but still, I kept my nose out in front,” Rose said after his third round 68 on Saturday.
Rose played the front nine in two-under par and had grown his lead to six strokes at the turn.
But after two-and-a-half days of watching Rose run away with the golf tournament, someone finally decided to put their foot down... and that someone was Ben Curtis.
Curtis recorded five birdies on the back-nine en-route to a third round score of 64, which tied four others for low round of the day.
“Got off to a slower start today than I wanted to, but just stayed patient and tried to keep hitting the greens and tried to make the putts, and luckily the last nine holes they kind of started going in,” Curtis said immediately following his round.
“They kind of started going in” may be the understatement of the tournament. Curtis sunk a 10-footer for birdie on the 10th, a nine-footer for birdie on the 13th, a 16-footer for birdie on the 15th and a 42-footer for birdie on the 18th.
Rickie Barnes was one of the other four players in the field that shot a 64 on Saturday, and it was good enough to catapult him 30 spots up the leaderboard into a tie for fourth heading into Sunday.
While Curtis was making his move, Rose began to cool down. After hitting nine consecutive fairways off the tee (intermediate rough on 12, but only because he hit his drive too well), Rose made his first real mistake of the tournament when he inexplicably pushed his tee shot into the water lining the right side of the par-five 13th.
Rose would scramble to give himself a six foot par putt, but was unable to find the bottom of the cup, which was a familiar occurrence for Rose on Saturday afternoon.
The longest putt Rose sank all day was a four-foot, nine-inch putt on the 17th.
As Curtis continued to light up the back-nine, Rose righted the ship with a birdie on the 296 yard par-four 15th followed by three consecutive pars.
Vijay Singh, who started the day tied for third, seemed to catch a case of the lefts with his driver while on the range just prior to his round.
Although he was able to keep his driver under control for much of the day, it finally came out to bite him at the 13th when he pulled his tee shot out of bounds left and recorded a bogey six on a hole that Singh would normally be disappointed with a par on.
But the ever-resilient Singh would bounce back with his first birdie of the day at the 14th, followed by another birdie at the 15th before chalking up one more bogey on the way in just to stoke the fire that was already on the verge of coming out of his ears.
Singh would finish with a three-over-par round of 73 which dropped him back into a tie for 32nd.
Rose will begin Sunday’s round with a three-stroke lead over Curtis, which is only one less than he started the day with.
But Rose knows better than anyone how easily a lead can disappear over the course of two-days at TPC River Highlands.
At the 2005 Travelers Championship, Rose fired a second-round seven-under 63 to grab a four-stroke lead over Ben Curtis and Kevin Sutherland, before ultimately finishing third to Brad Faxon.
Whether Rose holds on to win this thing tomorrow or not, the avid English soccer fan kiddingly said that he has already reached his goal for the week.
“The goal at the start of the week was to play well enough to watch the football game,” Rose said with a big smile on his face referring to tomorrow morning’s World Cup match between England and Germany. “So, mission accomplished.”
One can only assume that Rose will be dreaming of two victories when he rests his head on the pillow tonight — one for his beloved English soccer team and one for himself at the Travelers Championship.