PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – As skies darkened and winds picked up late Saturday, many players struggled with the deteriorating conditions. No one had a more tumultuous finish to his round, though, than Hunter Mahan.
Beginning the day at 7 under, Mahan had played his way to 9 under and within one shot of the lead heading to the 15th hole when things got interesting. His tee shot on the par-4 went left into the trees – and never landed. The ball became lodged in a tall pine and, after a complicated ordeal to even identify the ball, Mahan dropped for an unplayable lie and went on to make a double bogey.
“Everything started really blowing, I was hoping it would blow my ball out,” he said of the situation following his tee shot at 15 that remained suspended 20-30 feet above him. “Literally when I dropped it, it was just like pine needles and sand and stuff was flying everywhere, it was blowing like crazy.”
Mahan bounced back quickly though, using the wind to his advantage on the par-5 16th. After two shots left him just short of the green, he rolled in a 30-foot putt from the fringe for an improbable eagle, recouping the shots lost on the prior hole. Following a three-putt bogey on the par-3 17th, Mahan had hit his drive on No. 18 when the horn blew, signaling the suspension of play. Despite the waning light, he opted to finish the round, closing with a par for a 1-under 71 to leave him four shots behind overnight leader David Lingmerth.
“It wasn’t going to make any difference how we were going to play the hole or whatnot,” he said of the decision to finish the round. “I’m warmed up, ready to go, and didn’t see the point of waking up at 5:30 a.m. It’s not that dark.”
After the round, Mahan was able to take stock of what was a rather erratic close to his third round at the Stadium Course.
“I had to take an unplayable and all that stuff, eagled 16 and made the silliest bogey in the world on 17,” he added. “It was the wildest last four holes.”