No matter what happens this weekend at Quail Hollow Club, Couples is headed back to THE PLAYERS Championship next week for an event he has won twice. He slid into the field when Will MacKenzie withdrew because of knee surgery.
That withdrawal simplified what previously had made for a confusing scenario for the popular 48-year-old veteran. Before that, Couples would have made the Players field only if the winner of the Wachovia already had qualified for it.
Of course, a victory by Couples also would have taken care of that. Playing in Charlotte for the first time since the inaugural event in 2003, Couples has steadily moved up the leaderboard through three rounds. His second straight 69 Saturday moved him to 210 and placing him within seven strokes of the lead.
If youre making putts and birdies, youre going to pick up shots, and if you make a bogey, its not the end of the world, Couples said. But now, when you have one round, someones going to go out, bunched up leaderboard, and have a good round and probably be the guy who wins. If you can shoot 3 or 4 under, and if youre a top-five or six, youre probably going to win the tournament.
CINK-ING AND RISING
Stewart Cinks remarkable birdie putt from atop the rock wall on the tricky 17th nearly cost him two penalty strokes.
As Cink lined up his circus putt, he placed his hand on the ground inside the hazard line while trying to balance himself'then immediately knew he needed to discuss the maneuver with an official.
I was balancing my hand because I wanted to get as low as possible, and I really didnt feel comfortable doing the Camilo (Villegas) Spiderman right there on the rock wall with the water, Cink said.
Cink finished the round, then consulted tour rules official Tony Wallin before he signed his scorecard. Cinks score of 8 under was temporarily dropped to 6 under, but it was restored when officials decided he merely was balancing himself. The second scoring change briefly had him in a four-way tie for first.
To prevent falling, youre allowed to touch the ground in a hazard as long as nothing is done that constitutes testing the hazard, Wallin said. He clearly didnt test the hazard.
NOT STANDING PAT
Pat Perez used a near-record round to go from barely making the cut to vaulting near the lead.
Perez, who entered the third round 10 strokes off the lead at 1 over, shot a 65 to rocket up the leaderboard.
He entered the last two holes at 8 under for the tournament, but bogeyed Nos. 17 and 18 to miss his chance to break the single-round record of 64 set by Kirk Triplett in 2004 and tied twice.
Im going to try to forget those two bogeys, Perez said.
Still, his day was good enough to safely move above the next cut line. The PGA Tours tweaked cut rules stipulate that if more than 78 players make it past the second round, the field would be trimmed again after 54 holes to the top 70 and ties. There were 87 players who survived the first cut.
The guys are going to be right back in the tournament, and I just have to be one of them, Perez said. Thats how it goes. That (old) cut rule was ridiculous, stupid, because were 10 back. Tiger (Woods) has won from 12 back, 15 back. It happens. You get lucky, you get out early, you get out at 7 oclock, youve got no wind. Greens are perfect and you can take advantage of them.