Why can't third-round leaders win?
Kevin Currie - Golf Editor|
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
The 54-hole leaders at the last nine PGA Tour events have come in all shapes and sizes, from former major champions to tour rookies.
One thing they have in common is they all failed to hold on to win the title. Their final-round scores have ranged from 70 to 75.
Bill Haas was the last 54-hole leader to win and that was at the Humana Challenge at the end of January. He was part of a four-way tie entering the final round that week, and closed with a 5-under 67. His co-leaders shot 69, 70 and 72 with 13 birdies, two bogeys and three double-bogeys between them.
That established the pattern of third-round leaders failing to win.
Two of the last nine events had multiple third-round leaders. Among those 11 leaders, they have tallied 33 birdies and two eagles in their respective final rounds. However, that group has erased those 37 shots, and more, with 35 bogeys, six double-bogeys and a triple-bogey.
Add all that together, and those 11 players combined for a 72.9 final-round scoring average.
That isn't going to win many events. Heck, the last nine U.S. Open champions had a final-round scoring average of 70.8 in the event most consider among the hardest.
The last nine tournaments have featured five playoffs, and in only one of those five was the 54-hole leader in the extra session. That was at the Farmers Insurance Open, where Jason Day beat Scott Stallings and 54-hole co-leaders J.B. Holmes and Harris English.
Unfortunately for Holmes, he has been on the losing end of this streak twice. He lost to Day after a final-round 72 in San Diego and he coughed up the title at the WGC-Cadillac Championship, when he stumbled to a 75 in the final round.
In the final round of those two events, Holmes combined for five birdies and nine bogeys.
Also in the group that has lost their 54-hole lead was Jim Furyk. Dating to the 2012 season, the former U.S. Open champion has lost nine straight third- round leads.
Though much of the blame lies in the inconsistent final-round play by the third-round leaders, the winners of the nine events have played outstanding golf.
Seven of the last nine champions have carded rounds in the 60s, and eight of the winners have been under par in the final round.
The nine winners have averaged 68.3, which was 4.6 strokes better than the group of players who lost their 54-hole leads.
The eventual winners played with more of a "go for broke" mentality, whereas the 11 who lost the lead were in the "trying not to lose" mode.
There are two more events before the Masters, but maybe that is where this streak ends. When Bubba Watson won his second green jacket last year, he snapped a string of four straight 54-hole leaders in major championships who failed to win. Including Watson, the last four major champions all led entering the final round.
So these recent 11 have plenty of good company, although I'm sure it's not a group any want to be in.
EVERY'S BAY HILL MAGIC
If you think the 54-hole leaders have struggled of late, they have nothing on Matt Every. He had gone 18 consecutive events without a top-25 finish, then, of course, he won the Arnold Palmer Invitational.
Every's repeat as champion was as unlikely as the last 11 54-hole leaders failing to win.
Prior to teeing it up at Bay Hill, Every had a total six under-par rounds in his last nine starts with his best finish being a tie for 27th at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions.
Dating back to last year, Every had combined for 13 under-par rounds in his last 18 tournaments.
That made his four rounds in the 60s at Bay Hill even more odd. He had gone 25 straight events without breaking par in all four rounds at any tournament.
Ironically, the last time he shot under-par in four straight rounds? His win at Bay Hill last year.
Every's affinity for the tournament runs deep as he used to attend the event as a kid. He joked that if these were his only two PGA Tour wins, he'd be happy.
True or not, Every needs to start playing better at more than just one event. He had just one top-10 finish between his two Bay Hill wins. If he hopes to win more often, that isn't going to cut it.
Every sounded focused on being more consistent after his win on Sunday. Now comes the hard part: following through on that.
* Daniel Berger and Zach Johnson both holed their second shots on par-5s this past weekend at Bay Hill. It marked the sixth time since 1983 there were two albatrosses, or double-eagles, at the same event. The last time it happened was at the 2007 Players Championship.
* It's easy to see why Lydia Ko remains atop the women's world rankings. Dating to the end of last season, she has carded 25 consecutive under-par rounds and hasn't finished outside the top nine in the time.