AVONDALE, La. – Some notes and nuggets to whet your appetite for Sunday’s final round of the Zurich Classic:
1. Earlier this month, Ernie Els had to watch the 76th Masters from his couch after not qualifying for the event for the first time in 19 years. Three weeks later, it appears as if Els has redemption on the brain.
In his first NOLA start in a decade and first appearance at TPC Louisiana, Els is in position for a 19th PGA Tour win. Els is T-3 after a third-round 68 and is three strokes behind leader Jason Dufner.
Els has not won since taking consecutive events in Florida in 2010 at Doral and Bay Hill. Els had just one top-10 finish last season, extending a streak of 19 years with at least one such finish. He has already earned two top-5 finishes this year.
2. In search of his first PGA Tour win, Dufner took the 36-hole lead for the sixth time in his career. He maintained a share of the lead after 54 holes for just the third time in those six events.
Dufner held on to the lead after Saturday at the '09 RBC Canadian Open and the '11 PGA Championship. He finished T-3 in Canada and was a playoff runner-up at Atlanta Athletic Club.
This season, Dufner was T-3 after the third round in Tampa and T-11 after Saturday at Augusta National.
His scoring average on Sunday, however, has been lousy this year. He shot 71 to close in Tampa and 75 to finish the Masters – mirroring his Saturday rounds in both events. In eight previous final rounds this year, Dufner has averaged 71.88, which is tied for 108th on Tour.
3. Bubba Watson is T-16 after three rounds of the Zurich Classic, thanks to a Saturday 65 which has him eight behind Dufner.
Watson has not finished lower than 18th this season. He could maintain that streak with a good round on Sunday.
Watson's win at Augusta was his first major. Here's how the last seven fellow first-time major winners fared in the next start after their breakthrough.
Keegan Bradley: The Barclays – MC
Darren Clarke: Irish Open – MC
Rory McIlroy: Britsh Open – T-25
Charl Schwartzel: Malaysian Open – T-11
Martin Kaymer: KLM Open – Win
Louis Oosthuizen: Scandinavian Masters – T-4
Graeme McDowell: Scottish Open – T-21
4. After a six-year stretch without a PGA Tour win, Ben Curtis is in position to win his second tournament in a row. Curtis is tied for 10th place and trails Dufner by six shots.
If Curtis wins in New Orleans, he would be the first guy to win in consecutive starts since Jonathan Byrd bridged two seasons with wins in the 2010 Justin Timberlake Shriners Hospitals for Children Open and 2011 Hyundai Tournament of Champions. He would be the first to win in consecutive events since Tiger Woods won the '09 Buick Open and World Golf Championships-Bridgestone Invitational.
Curtis would also be the second guy this year to notch multiple victories, following Hunter Mahan.
5. Luke Donald is in position to reclaim the top spot in the Official World Golf Ranking. If he finishes solo seventh or better, he will overtake Rory McIlroy for the No. 1 ranking.
The ranking swap would be the fourth in the last two months. Only once have both players been in the same field when the swap happened – the Honda Classic.
How important is this to Donald? He was unaware of what he needed to do until Golf Talk Central told him on Friday.
'I would have thought I needed to win,' he said.