A towheaded kid from California with a long swing and John Dalys pants still leads. A square-shouldered southerner with a John Wayne delivery has joined the fray atop the leaderboard. And the games two most important calling cards are running out of time.
Ricky Barnes still leads, despite more missed putts and fairways on Sunday than the golf gods normally tolerate from a front-runner. Lucas Glover, who made a mess of his third-round front nine before remembering that nobody in this weeks field is driving the ball better, is all square with him at 7 under, one-and-a-half holes into the final frame.
And Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson, the marquee the whole of NYC has been waiting in ankle-deep mud for, are just close enough ' seven and five strokes back, respectively ' to make things interesting.
They both, however, will need help from Glover and Barnes, and the reformed wild child has not tipped his hand to a collapse just yet. In fact, for a time early Sunday it appeared as if the championship had ended, in form if not function.
Hollywood Ricky played his first six holes of Round 3 in 3 under, moved to 11 under to become just the fourth player in 109 national get-togethers to sport a double-digit under-par total and was six up on the field and a cool dozen clear of Woods.
Nothing gives New Yorkers reason to pause like a September swoon by the Yankees and a Bethpage Open turned pincushion by four days of nonstop rain. For a time Barnes and Mother Nature turned the mighty Black into a pitch-and-putt. We imagine the USGA already had Open Doctor Rees Jones charting 18 new tee boxes that stretch the layout all the way to Yonkers.
Sanity seemed restored when Barnes went hay to hay and made a good bogey at No. 10. A hole later he opened the door even further with his second consecutive hook and a momentary request for his second consecutive reload. Worst word an Open leader can mutter? Provisional.
Barnes managed just three pars on his inward nine, an Open antithesis, and seemed pleased to sign for a 70 that could have easily been a 75.
Sunday, even par at a U.S. Open, I cant complain, said Barnes, who showed signs of stress late with a bogey at his 55th hole and a tee shot at the second pulled seven paces into the knee-high fescue to start Lap 4.
After Glover, who posted the type of closing nine (3-under 33) to his third round that wins major championships, and Barnes the board reads David Duval, Ross Fisher, Mickelson, Mike Weir and Hunter Mahan. The year 2003 called, they want their leaderboard back.
Duval, whose longtime swing coach Puggy Blackmon called a new man, birdied the last and is 16 holes away from his most meaningful victory. While Mickelson, who seems to have supplanted Derek Jeter in the hearts and minds of New Yorkers everywhere, left the door open with birdies at two of his final three.
Interestingly, the games ultimate marathon will quickly become a sprint on Monday morning. Barnes and Glover completed just one hole of the final round Sunday before the familiar sound of air horns filled the cool twilight air. Duval, Woods, Mickelson & Co. are running out of at bats.
The situation will be particularly dire for Woods, who played seven holes and is a touchdown back heading into Monday mornings rush-hour finish. Although the world No. 1 offered a glimmer of hope with a chip in at the 17th to finish his third round ' about the only thing all week, other than the weatherman, that has made him laugh ' and a birdie in the growing gloom at the seventh he continues to struggle on the Blacks greens and still has never won a major from behind.
If I can put a number up (Sunday) afternoon ' and Ill probably need a little help, Woods, the 2002 champ, said when asked his chances of scoring the Bethpage double.
Odds are this Open will go to an off-Broadway player given Woods putting woes and Mickelsons inconsistencies. And Barnes is as off-Broadway as they come, having spent the better part of his rookie campaign with weekends off (six missed cuts in 13 events). Hes also become the de-facto favorite of sports most partisan crowd.
Hes got cooler pants than I do, Glover smiled.
Hes also got big shoes to fill and 17 muddy holes to survive if hes going to make this fairytale come true.
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