PALM HARBOR, Fla. – Fifty-four down, 18 to go. A little reflection, a little dissection as the Transitions Championship heads into the final round:
Veteran co-leaders Jim Furyk and Retief Goosen (-11) have some pretty good things in common. Both have won U.S. Opens – Goosen twice. Both are recent past champions at Innisbrook and both ranked among the game’s better players for the better part of a decade without claiming the top spot. Both men are also coming off career-worst seasons in their early 40s. A victory by either would amount to a new lease on competitive life.
A whopping 18 players enter the final round within four strokes of Furyk and Goosen, including Ernie Els at 8 under. Els has played better of late but is running out of chances to qualify for the Masters, a tournament he has factored in but never won during his 20-year career.
After a torrid 61 in the opening round, Padraig Harrington has moved steadily down the leaderboard – he’s T-10, four strokes off the lead. Harrington was the only player in the top 10 to shoot over par Saturday (72).
Furyk ranked among the Tour’s top 20 percent in putting in all but one year from 2000 through 2010, then fell to 150th last season. His Presidents Cup partnership with Phil Mickelson last November led to a switch in golf balls – from Taylor Made to Callaway – and immediate improvement on the greens. Furyk had 14 GIR but still needed just 27 putts during a third-round 66.
Hawkins is a contributing writer with more than two decades of journalism experience.
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