NEWTOWN SQUARE, Pa. – Justin Rose gets to find out just how much he learned from losing a big lead on the PGA Tour.
Rose made some big par saves in the middle of his round Saturday and finished strong for a 3-under 67 to build a four-shot lead in the AT&T National and give himself a chance to win for the second time in three tournaments.
Rose was at 10-under 200, the only player to reach double digits under par all week on an Aronimink course that is among the toughest PGA Tour tracks of the year. He was four shots ahead of Carl Pettersson, who had a 65, and Charlie Wi, who had a 70.
A week ago at the Travelers Championship, Rose led wire-to-wire and had a three-shot lead going into the final round before he came undone on the back nine and finished in a tie for ninth.
It didn’t take him long to get into that position again.
This time, the test figures to come as much from a firm, fast golf course as his nerves of trying to hold on.
“It’s tougher to go low around here,” said Rose, one of only two players to have broken par all three rounds. “It’s easier to go higher. It’s an interesting test. But it starts with good golf. It’s tough to find the birdies. I’ve just got to keep playing solid.”
Tiger Woods only gets into contention in the majors these days. In his final tournament before the British Open, he again finds himself out of the mix going into the final round. Woods recovered from an atrocious start with an even-par 70, putting him 13 shots behind.
This will be his seventh tournament without a victory on the PGA Tour, his longest drought since he went 16 straight tournaments in 2004 when he was going through a swing change. The only good news for the tournament is that the massive crowd that followed him around in the morning did not leave Aronimink.
Rose and everyone else played before another big gallery on a hot, sunny afternoon, and while there were plenty of possibilities, he was in control from the minute he split the middle of the first fairway and hit a sand wedge into 8 feet for birdie.
Pettersson started 90 minutes earlier and made only one mistake, a bogey on the par-3 eighth, in his round of 65. He was joined by Wi, who saw firsthand how quickly everything can change at Aronomink.
Wi was one shot behind until Rose hit a 9-iron the right distance, the ball crawling up the slope to 4 feet for a birdie on the 13th.
Then came the troublesome 14th, a par 3 with the pin tucked in the right corner. Wi, playing in the group ahead of Rose, was behind the flag and four-putted for a double bogey. Rose was in worse shape, in nasty rough behind the green, and even as he tried to play safe away from the hole, he still went into deep rough on the other side. He chopped out to 4 feet and escaped with bogey.
“That was the only emotion I showed all day, with a fist pump,” Rose said with a grin. “And that was for bogey.”
He got that shot back with his second straight birdie on the par-3 17th.
Jeff Overton, who also has three straight rounds in the 60s, birdied the 18th hole for a 69 and was at 5-under 205. Ryan Moore (69) and Jason Day of Australia (72) were another shot behind.
Woods made Saturday morning feel like Sunday afternoon on the PGA Tour.
Having made the cut on the number, he teed off at 9 a.m. before thousands of fans who followed him around Aronimink and were treated to some stunning shots – with Woods, that can be anything these days.
He twice made bogey with a wedge in his hand from the middle of the fairway, including a shot he chunked so badly that it only went 59 yards without reaching the green. Woods also hit some lasers on the par 3s, nearly making an ace on the tough eighth hole, and hit his driver longer than he has all year.
All that matters is the score, however. Woods made three bogeys on the opening six holes, then got those strokes back over the final 12 holes for a 70 that put him in a tie for 47th. He was 13 shots out of the lead.
“I was trying to be patient, trying to pick my spots, and I just kept making mistake after mistake,” Woods said.