HUMBLE, Texas – Anthony Kim never knew where his tee shots were going. Bryce Molder never got control of his swing.
Both saved themselves with their short games Saturday and ended up tied for the third-round lead in the Houston Open.
Kim missed 11 of 14 fairways, but relied on good putting to shoot a 3-under 69 that left him 10 under for the tournament. Molder, the second-round leader, made four bogeys and five birdies for a 71.
“It was a tough day,” Molder said. “I just couldn’t quite find the club in my swing, and it was just a little off.”
Vaughn Taylor (70) and Joe Ogilvie (71) were two strokes back at 8 under after both bogeyed the difficult 18th hole. Houston resident Jeff Maggert (70), Graham DeLaet (71) and Lee Westwood (72) were three strokes behind the leaders.
The players faced only light breezes after wind gusted up to 30 mph during the first two rounds. The mild conditions couldn’t help Kim, who was hitting tee shots into trouble all day.
“I don’t know what happened today,” Kim said. “Just spraying the ball off the tee, just hitting the worst shots I’ve hit probably this year.”
Kim finished second to Camilo Villegas at the Honda Classic, one of three top-25 finishes this year. He hasn’t held or shared the third-round lead since last year’s Canadian Open, where he finished third.
After three-plus years on the Tour, Kim feels as if he’s matured enough to make smart decisions, when parts of his game are letting him down.
“I’ve learned a lot from past experiences,” he said. “It gives me confidence that I’m getting the ball up and down from a lot of places I probably shouldn’t. That’s dangerous, because you don’t want to rely on that.”
Kim pulled a 300-yard drive on the par-4 12th hole, then flopped a wedge from an awkward stance within a foot with a pond lurking on the other side of the green.
“I told my caddie, ‘If I don’t hit this perfectly, it’s going to go 50 yards in the water,”’ Kim said.
He hooked another tee shot on the 17th hole, then wedged out of the rough to 3 feet. Kim saved par from behind the green at No. 18, chipping down the hill and sinking an 8-footer.
“There were some spots today, I don’t know how I got out,” he said. “But I was happy to go ahead and hit some lucky shots and good shots, and get away with it.”
Molder hit his share of errant tee shots, too, after a solid 66 on Friday. He made three bogeys on the front nine, then birdied two of the first three holes on the back.
He dunked his tee shot in the water on 18, then hit a 6-iron to 14 feet and made the putt for an unexpected par. Molder had seven one-putt greens on the back nine and a total of 26 putts in his round.
“Luckily, my putter kind of held me in there,” Molder said. “I always kind of know that if I can just kind of get it going the direction I want it to go, then I’m usually going to be OK.”
Molder, a four-time All-American at Georgia Tech, is winless in 88 career PGA Tour starts. He got to play Augusta National once a year when he was in college, but has never played in the Masters.
He’ll earn an invitation with his first victory, but said he’s not thinking about what will be on the line for him on Sunday.
“I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t in the back of my mind, and wouldn’t be just a huge thrill,” Molder said. “But that’s a lot of steps away.”
Molder also was tied for the lead after the second round this year at Pebble Beach, and tied for 10th. He admitted that he was nervous on Saturday morning, but he’s eager to see how he copes with the pressure on Sunday.
“A day like today can only help,” Molder said. “I knew, over the last two days, I was going to face some times where it didn’t feel very good, where I was uncomfortable out there and hit some poor shots. All you can do is just be ready for that, handle it as well as you can.”
Justin Leonard (67) moved into contention in the morning with two eagles on his front nine. He made a double bogey on the 14th hole, though, and dropped into the logjam at 6 under.
“Just off the golf course, it’s a little disappointing,” Leonard said. “But at the same time, there are so many good things to pull from today. As the day wears on, I’ll see those things a little more clearly.”
Leonard, who lives in Dallas, is seeking his first win since the 2008 St. Jude Classic. He has three victories in the Texas Open in San Antonio, but has never won in Houston. He tied for 19th last year, his best finish since a tie for sixth in 2002, the final time the tournament was played at the nearby TPC at the Woodlands.
Kim shares top spot in Houston
HUMBLE, Texas – Anthony Kim never knew where his tee shots were going. Bryce Molder never got control of his swing.
Paisley (61) leads Web.com Tour Championship
ATLANTIC BEACH, Fla. – Chris Paisley birdied four of the last five holes for a 10-under 61 and the first-round lead Thursday in the season-ending Web.com Tour Championship.
The South African Open winner in January for his first European Tour title, Paisley played the back nine first at Atlantic Beach Country Club, holing a bunker shot for an eagle on the par-5 18th. On the front nine, he birdied the par-3 fifth and finished with three straight birdies.
''I think just all around was really good,'' Paisley said. ''I hit it well off the tee, which gave me a lot of kind of short irons into the greens and opportunities. I hit a lot of really good iron shots close, and then a few other bonus kind of things happened where I holed the bunker shot on 18 and holed a long putt on No. 8.''
The 32-year-old Englishman missed the cuts in the first three Web.com Tour Finals events after getting into the series as a non-member PGA Tour with enough money to have placed in the top 200 in the FedEx Cup. The final card went for $40,625 last year, with Paisley needs to finish in a two-way tie for fourth or better to mathematically have a chance to secure one of the 25 PGA Tour at stake.
''The nice thing was I won early in the year in Europe,'' said Paisley, a former University of Tennessee player. ''I've got the first two Final series events locked up, I think I'm in those. I'm not guaranteed to be in Dubai yet. But I just thought we have a house over here, my wife's American, my goal is to try to get on the PGA Tour, so it was a perfect opportunity to try and do it.''
Cameron Tringale and Canadian Ben Silverman were two strokes back at 63. Tringale is tied for 83rd in the PGA Tour card race with $2,660, and Silverman is tied for 85th at $2,600.
''I hit a lot of good shots and made some good putts,'' Silverman said. ''Actually, it could have been lower, but I'm not complaining. Missed a couple putts inside 6x feet, but I'm not complaining at all, it was a great round.''
Lucas Glover was at 64 with Ben Crane, Nicholas Lindheim, Matt Every, Trevor Cone, Denny McCarthy, Carlos Ortiz and Jose de Jesus Rodriguez. Carlos Ortiz and Jose de Jesus Rodriguez earned PGA Tour cards as top-25 finishers on the Web.com Tour regular-season money list, and McCarthy has made $75,793 in the first three Finals events to also wrap up a card. In the race for the 25 cards, Lindholm is 19th with $35,836, Every 30th with $25,733, Glover 40th with $17,212, and Cone 59th with $8,162
The series features the top 75 players from the Web.com regular-season money list, Nos. 126-200 in the PGA Tour's FedEx Cup standings, and Paisley and other non-members with enough money to have placed in the top 200. The top-25 finishers on the Web.com regular-season money list are competing against each other for tour priority, with regular-season earnings counting in their totals. The other players are fighting for the 25 cards based on series earnings.
McIlroy likely to join PGA Tour PAC next year
ATLANTA – The upside of the PGA Tour’s sweeping changes to next year’s playoff finale, along with a host of other significant changes to the schedule, seems to be more engagement in circuit policy by top players.
Jordan Spieth served on the player advisory council this season and will begin his three-year term as one of four player directors on the policy board next year, and Justin Thomas also was on this year’s PAC.
Those meetings might become even more high profile next year.
“I'm not on the PAC. I'm probably going to join the PAC next year. Nice to sort of know what's going on and give your input and whatever,” Rory McIlroy said following his round on Thursday at the Tour Championship.
McIlroy said he spoke with Tour commissioner Jay Monahan about the transition to a strokes-based format for the Tour Championship starting next year. Given his take on Thursday to the media it must have been an interesting conversation.
“I like it for the FedExCup. I don't necessarily think it should be an official Tour win. I don't know how the World Ranking points are going to work,” said McIlroy, who is tied for fifth after a first-round 67 at East Lake. “There's a lot of stuff that still needs to be figured out. But in terms of deciding the FedExCup, I think it's good.”
Thomas (67) happy to feel no pain in wrist
ATLANTA – When Justin Thomas arrived at East Lake he didn’t have very high expectations.
After injuring his right wrist during the final round of the BMW Championship he spent last week in south Florida getting therapy after being diagnosed with a case of tendinitis and little else.
He said he didn’t hit a full shot last week and didn’t expect much out of his game at the finale, but was pleasantly surprised with his play following an opening 67 that left him tied for fifth place and two strokes off the lead. But most of all he was pleased that he didn’t feel any pain in his wrist.
“I thought that I may not be playing very well because of my preparation being able to hit as few balls as I have, but no, in terms of pain, it's not an issue,” he said.
Thomas explained that he tested the wrist earlier this week to be sure he was pain-free and conceded he considered not playing the Tour Championship in order to be as healthy as possible for next week’s Ryder Cup.
“If it would have hurt at all, I wouldn't have played,” said Thomas, who will be a rookie on this year’s U.S. team. “No. 1 most important part is my future and my career. I don't want to do anything that's going to put me out for a while. But to me, second most important is Ryder Cup. I would rather not play this week and play the Ryder Cup and be fresh and make sure I'm going to get as many points for the team as possible.”
Fowler 'pain free' and tied for Tour Championship lead
ATLANTA – The most important member of Team USA at next week’s Ryder Cup may be the team trainer.
Justin Thomas began the season finale nursing a case of tendonitis in his right wrist and Rickie Fowler skipped the first two playoff events after being slowed by a right oblique injury.
Neither player seemed impacted by the injuries on Thursday at the Tour Championship, with Thomas tied for fifth at 3 under and Fowler tied for the lead with Tiger Woods at 5 under par.
“I needed the 2 1/2 weeks or so of just sitting around really not doing a whole lot,” said Fowler, who tied for eighth last week at the BMW Championship. “It was definitely the right call. If I would have played through the first or second playoff events, there was really no benefit, especially looking at the ultimate goal being ready for the Ryder Cup and to have a chance to be here at East Lake.”
Being rested and pain-free is a vast improvement over how he felt at the PGA Championship last month, when he underwent therapy before and after each round and had to wear tape just to play.
“It's nice to be back swinging pain-free because I wouldn't have wanted to deal with how it felt during PGA week for a continued amount of time,” said Fowler, who finished his day with a bogey-free closing nine to secure a spot in Friday’s final group with Woods.