HONOLULU – Steve Stricker may be trying his hand at a Hawaii sweep, but a few good men stand in his way.
Matt Every had a hard time sleeping on the lead going into the weekend at the Sony Open. He managed a 2-under 68 on Saturday, and goes into the final round tied with 47-year-old Jeff Maggert with a lot more at stake.
Maggert played bogey-free in relatively calm conditions at Waialae, making an eagle on the easy par-5 ninth for the second straight day, and shot a 66 to give himself a chance to win for the first time in nearly six years.
They were at 12-under 198, two shots clear, but with more than a dozen players still in the hunt.
Charles Howell III, who has had five finishes in the top five at the Sony Open, gave himself another opportunity with a 66. He was in the group at 10-under 200. Pebble Beach winner D.A. Points shot 64 and was another shot back, while the large group at 8-under 202 included Steve Stricker, trying to join Ernie Els in 203 as the only players to sweep the Hawaii events.
The surprise was Maggert.
Not only is he closing in on the 50-and-older Champions Tour, he finally took care of a bone spur in his right shoulder that has been bothering him the last few years. Maggert had surgery in June and had a medical exemption for part of this year, but he went to Q-school for a backup plan.
It worked. He made it through Q-school for a little more security, and then built more momentum with a solid day. He had to scramble for par on the opening hole, and the rest of the day felt easy.
Every, meanwhile, hasn’t had an easy time this week.
He had an awkward interview with Golf Channel after his 64 on Friday, and his comments about an arrest on a misdemeanor marijuana possession charge at the John Deere Classic in 2010 became a hot topic.
“I’m just ready to get it over with,” he said.
That’s not to suggest he’s dreading the final round. Every felt the nerves of protecting a two-shot lead in the third round, and said one reason he had trouble sleeping was that he had a lot to lose.
He went long of the green at No. 2 to make bogey, and his round was close to getting away from him. His approach on the third hole flirted with the water down the left side and barely was safe. He chipped to 8 feet and made par.
“If I miss that – 2 over after three – and then the next thing you know, I could have made another bogey and then it’s just kind of survival mode,” he said.
But he steadied himself quickly, helped by a 30-foot birdie putt on the eighth and a two-putt birdie on the ninth that allowed him to regain control.
What he couldn’t control was Maggert, who is starting to feel healthy again. Along with the shoulder, Maggert says he hasn’t felt right since he broke a rib early in 2007 during a snow skiing trip – but the injury didn’t happen on the slopes.
“It was afterwards, coming out of the grocery store,” he said. “True story. Tripped on the ice and fell and broke my rib on the curb.”
The timing couldn’t have been worse. Maggert had won the St. Jude Classic in 2006 and was on the ski trip before going to Maui for the Tournament of Champions. He tried to play through the pain, and thinks it affected the technique in his swing.
“I feel like it’s a lot better than it has been,” he said.
The leaderboard is so bunched that Duffy Waldorf was walking up to the ninth green and saw that he was tied for 40th. He also noticed that he was only five shots out of the lead.
“It’s such a good bunching of players, it was like, `Well, if I go make some more birdies, I might get back in it.’ And that’s what happened on the back side,” he said.
Waldorf shot 31 on the back for a 66, and goes into the final day only three shots behind.
DIVOTS: Erik Compton made a 10-foot birdie putt on the 18th hole for a 70. Turns out he needed that to make the 54-hole cut on the number. The day before, he went birdie-eagle to make the 36-hole cut. … Webb Simpson has not finished out of the top 10 since The Tour Championship. He goes into the final round in a tie for 61st. … The par-5 ninth played to an average score of 4.15. It has yielded 38 eagles this week.