Woodland maintains three-shot lead
McIlroy in striking distance heading into final round
KAPALUA — Gary Woodland has slept on 54-hole leads seven times in stroke-play events on the PGA Tour, but has never finished the deal.
Today, he gets another chance as the leader of the Sentry Tournament of Champions with a three-shot advantage at the Kapalua Plantation Course. His playing partner will be Rory McIlroy, a first-timer here, but a 14-time winner on tour, including four major titles.
Woodland is 17-under par after a 5-under 68 on Saturday that was highlighted by a 64-foot eagle putt on the 555-yard, par-5 15th hole.
“Yeah, I think the difference is I’m a completely different player than I have been in the past,” Woodland said. “I’ve obviously been in the position multiple times. It’s nice to build off those and take certain things out of them. But it’s nice playing with Rory, because one, he plays really quick, we hit it similar distances so we can club off each other.”
McIlroy is at 14 under after a 68 on Saturday.
“And he’s a great guy, so that definitely helps tomorrow,” Woodland said of McIlroy. “But tomorrow I’ve got to go out and play aggressive. I’m playing well enough where I don’t have to play conservative. I can attack and continue to trust what I’m doing and should be good.”
Marc Leishman (68) is third at 13 under, while Xander Schauffele (68) and Bryson DeChambeau (70) are tied for fourth, five shots out of the lead.
McIlroy, competing on the the 7,518-yard Plantation Course for the first time, knows Woodland will not be easy to catch. Woodland leads the event in shots gained tee to green, while McIlroy leads in greens in regulation.
The eighth-ranked player in the world is not here to finish second.
“I don’t enter tournaments just to show up. I enter them to try to come and win,” McIlroy said. “I worked pretty hard over the last few weeks trying to get ready for this event and get ready for the start of the year. So, yeah, it’s nice that everything’s going to plan.”
Woodland and McIlroy were both 14 under until Woodland’s dramatic eagle and birdie on 18.
McIlroy came into Saturday’s round 5 under for the week on the final four holes, but he played them even par in the third round. He was 5 under through the first 14 holes on Saturday.
“A little bit. A little bit,” he said about being frustrated on his finish. “Being 5 under through 14, I thought if I could birdie two of those four holes and I can post 16, that would be nice. After not birdieing the par-5 15th, I was a little aggressive with my second shot on 16. It was actually lucky to get away with a par there.
“And then that pin on 18’s very tricky. You want to go at it, but off where my ball finished on 18 fairway it’s a hanging lie and you could turn it over too much very easily. So I bailed out on the right and it was a very tricky up-and-down. So yeah, I think I could have been a couple better, but I’ve still got myself in a final group first event of the year. So I’m in a good place.”
Leishman said he feels he has a shot at victory today.
“I’m where I wanted to be and I’ve played really well,” he said. “So gave myself a chance with a low one tomorrow.”
The wind is expected to calm down today from the gusty conditions that have marked the first three rounds. Because of that, Leishman said he will have to play aggressively.
“I think so, yeah, especially with it not being as windy,” Leishman said. “I think when it’s blowing like this you have to be a little bit careful because bad shots get magnified in the wind. Depends how everyone starts. I need to get off to a good start. It depends how the other boys start as well as to how aggressive I get. But it’s going to be very different.”
Woodland will be playing with a little bit of extra emotion after he learned his grandmother passed away on Friday.
“I got that phone call late last night,” Woodland said. “That’s been tough. She’s been downhill for a little while now. It’s been tough. And you try to prepare for that but you never really can. So that, definitely have a little extra emotion with me, but we’ll get through it.”
* Robert Collias is at email@example.com
PGA SENTRY TOURNAMENT OF CHAMPIONS
Saturday’s Third Round
At Kapalua Plantation Course
Gary Woodland 67-67-68–202 -17
Rory McIlroy 69-68-68–205 -14
Marc Leishman 68-70-68–206 -13
Xander Schauffele 72-67-68–207 -12
Bryson DeChambeau 69-68-70–207 -12
Justin Thomas 67-72-70–209 -10
Kevin Tway 66-71-72–209 -10
Dustin Johnson 67-74-69–210 -9
Jon Rahm 70-71-69–210 -9
Patton Kizzire 69-71-71–211 -8
Paul Casey 73-71-68–212 -7
Andrew Putnam 69-73-70–212 -7
Troy Merritt 73-71-69–213 -6
Charles Howell III 74-70-69–213 -6
Ian Poulter 71-69-73–213 -6
Cameron Champ 71-68-74–213 -6
Webb Simpson 70-72-72–214 -5
Andrew Landry 69-75-71–215 -4
Brandt Snedeker 75-69-71–215 -4
Jason Day 69-71-75–215 -4
Scott Piercy 76-72-69–217 -2
Matt Kuchar 72-73-72–217 -2
Patrick Reed 70-75-72–217 -2
Francesco Molinari 73-71-73–217 -2
Billy Horschel 72-75-71–218 -1
Keegan Bradley 77-69-72–218 -1
Aaron Wise 74-71-73–218 -1
Brice Garnett 73-72-73–218 -1
Ted Potter, Jr. 75-73-71–219 E
Brooks Koepka 76-70-73–219 E
Bubba Watson 70-79-74–223 +4
Michael Kim 71-72-80–223 +4
Satoshi Kodaira 77-76-73–226 +7
# # #
Today’s Final-Round Tee Times
10:05 a.m.–Satoshi Kodaira.
10:10 a.m.–Bubba Watson, Michael Kim.
10:20 a.m.–Ted Potter Jr., Brooks Koepka.
10:30 a.m.–Aaron Wise, Brice Garnett.
10:40 a.m.–Billy Horschel, Keegan Bradley.
10:50 a.m.–Patrick Reed, Francesco Molinari.
11 a.m.–Scott Piercy, Matt Kuchar.
11:10 a.m.–Brandt Snedeker, Jason Day.
11:20 a.m.–Webb Simpson, Andrew Landry.
11:30 a.m.–Ian Poulter, Cameron Champ.
11:40 a.m.–Troy Merritt, Charles Howell III.
11:50 a.m.–Paul Casey, Andrew Putnam.
Noon–Jon Rahm, Patton Kizzire.
12:10 p.m.–Kevin Tway, Dustin Johnson.
12:20 p.m.–Bryson DeChambeau, Justin Thomas.
12:30 p.m.–Marc Leishman, Xander Schauffele.
12:40 p.m.–Gary Woodland, Rory McIlroy.