NORTON, Mass. (AP) — Sergio Garcia only played in the Deutsche Bank Championship to make sure he kept advancing in the FedEx Cup playoffs. Steve Stricker showed up at the TPC Boston with hopes of making the Presidents Cup teams.
Now they have a great chance of winning against one of the strongest fields of the year.
And they have plenty of company.
Garcia took time to get warmed up on a soggy golf course Sunday, and it’s a good thing he hit his stride. With birdies galore on the TPC Boston, he took a one-shot lead into the third round, made five birdies on the back nine for a 6-under 65 and needed just about every birdie to keep his nose in front.
He was two shots clear of Henrik Stenson going into the Labor Day finish.
That’s nothing new for this tournament, a big course with wide fairways and pristine putting surfaces. Since the FedEx Cup began in 2007, the 54-hole lead has been an average of 15½ shots under par going into the final round.
Garcia, with a two-putt birdie on the par-5 18th hole, matched the 54-hole record of 19-under 194 set last year by Louis Oosthuizen.
“It always seems to be where we’re playing under some soften conditions here,” Stricker said after a 63 put him three shots behind. “Guys get in their minds here to shoot some good numbers and play well. It’s a fun course. … I think it’s a good test. It’s one of those if you’re playing well, you can really shoot a good number. If you’re not, it’s difficult at times.”
It was that way for Phil Mickelson, who had a 71 for the second straight day, this one not nearly as exciting — three bogeys, three birdies, the rest pars. He went from five shots behind to out of the mix, now 12 shots out of the lead.
And it was that way for Tiger Woods, who needed a rally and went the other direction.
Woods didn’t get anything going early and fell apart on the back nine, starting with a tee shot into a hazard well right of the 10th fairway. He began the back nine with three straight bogeys and ended with a three-putt par on the 18th for a 1-over 72. It ended six straight rounds in the 60s in the FedEx Cup playoffs, and much worse, left him with no chance of winning going into the off week. He was 13 shots back.
“I just didn’t have it today,” Woods said. “I just didn’t hit it well. I didn’t make anything. I had a bad day at the wrong time.”
The third round was about an hour old when it was scrapped because of heavy rain and lightning, with scores erased and the round starting over in threesomes off both tees. Players had ball in hand — they could lift, clean and replace their golf balls through the greens, which helps bring the scoring down.
The average score was 68.2, and anything higher than that meant losing ground.
Going into the final round, 25 players have posted all three rounds in the 60s, and most of them don’t have a chance. There were 332 birdies and 10 eagles Sunday, meaning players had sub-par holes a whopping 32 percent of the time.
“We can’t control the weather,” Garcia said. “And you’ve just got to go out there and try to play the best you can. And I was very happy to see that my best was 6-under.”
The question is whether that will be good enough on Monday.
Garcia’s record is a meager 3-7 when he has at least a share of the lead going into the last day on the PGA Tour, and he showed a few weak moments by missing birdie putts inside 6 feet on two of his last three holes that could have expanded his lead.
Stenson had a three-putt bogey late in his round for a 66.
Graham DeLaet of Canada all but locked up his spot on the Presidents Cup team with a 62 and was tied with Stricker at 13-under 197. PGA champion Jason Dufner had the lead for a moment when he made his sixth birdie in 10 holes, only to cool off on the back nine and settle for a 66. Her was four shots back, along with Robert Castro (68).
Kevin Stadler had a 64 and was five shots behind.
“There’s heaps of low scores out there,” Stenson said. “You have to keep making birdies if you want to have anything to do with this tournament. Today was no different. It’s going to be the same tomorrow. I’m sure everyone is coming at us from all different angles.”
Monday is filled with plenty of ramifications.
The top 70 in the FedEx Cup advance to the third playoff event in two weeks north of Chicago. Ernie Els is among those on the cusp. Ian Poulter, despite a pair of late bogeys, had a 66 and was six shots out of the lead. He appears safe for Chicago, and now can try to think about qualifying for the Tour Championship for the first time.
Rory McIlroy made the cut on the number and still was lingering at the bottom of the pack after a double bogey. Then, he ran off eight birdies over his last 13 holes, with girlfriend Caroline Wozniacki showing up for the last two hours. McIlroy was too far back to win, but he can make his bid for the Tour Championship a lot easier.