Dustin Johnson considered changing his putter Saturday prior to the start of the third round of the 99th PGA Championship at Quail Hollow Club.
He took a new one out on the practice putting green and fiddled with it but chose to stay with his usual TaylorMade Spider.
It produced more of the same, at least until the end of the round, and Johnson shot a 2-over-par 73 to fall back into a tie for 47th at 4-over 217 with a round to play.
The Coastal Carolina alumnus and world’s top-ranked player did make his first putts longer than 7 feet in the tournament by holing birdie putts of 10 and 13 feet on the 15th and 17th holes to offset two bogeys in his final five holes. He had gone 50 holes without making a putt longer than 7 feet.
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“I’m rolling my [putter] good; it’s just not going in the hole,” Johnson said. “I did make like a 12-footer on 15 and 12-footer on 17 and those are the two longest putts I’ve made all week. So I felt like today I rolled the putter good.”
Johnson is dead last at 75th among players who made the cut in the category of strokes gained putting. To illustrate his struggles, Johnson made 104 feet of putts through 36 holes compared to 259 feet by second-round co-leader Hideki Matsuyama and 217 feet by Jason Day, with whom Johnson played Thursday and Friday.
“I feel I’m as high over par as I can be. I’m just not scoring well,” Johnson said. “I can’t get any momentum. Everything is there. The game is there. I feel like I’m swinging good. I’ve got confidence in it. I’m just not scoring very well.”
Johnson made four birdies and six bogeys Saturday. He made a 6-foot birdie putt on the third hole to get to 1 over for the tournament, then bogeyed the par-3 fourth and sixth holes in identical fashion with tee shots into greenside bunkers and missed 11-foot putts.
He bogeyed the eighth and 11th holes while making birdie on the par-5 10th with a putt from off the green to 2 feet, and bogeyed the 14th and 16th holes following wayward drives to the left.
“I need to hole a par putt to kind of build some momentum and I hit a good putt and it just doesn’t go in. I just can’t get anything going,” Johnson said. “ I feel like the game is there, I just need to get some momentum and I’ll be all right.
“I just need to see some going in the hole, and I did. The last few holes I made a couple putts.”
Golfers often hope to catch lightning in a bottle, and Graham DeLaet did it Saturday afternoon.
The Canadian was 3-over par through 48 holes of the championship when he gained six strokes to par in four holes. DeLaet nearly made a hole in one on the 195-yard par-3 13th hole and tapped in for birdie, lipped out his tee shot on the short 301-yard par-4 14th hole and holed the resulting 6-foot putt for eagle, hit a 260-yard approach to 13 feet for eagle on the par-5 15th and drained a 46-foot putt for birdie on the par-4 16th.
The run moved DeLaet to 3 under at 210 and into the a tie for seventh, four shots behind leader Kevin Kisner.
“I turned to [caddie Julien Trudeau after the 14th hole] and said, ‘Man, I could have just gone 1, 1, but going 2, 2 is pretty good on those holes, too,’ ” DeLaet said. “That would be a cool run, you know, at any PGA Tour event. But to do that at the PGA Championship is pretty special. It's something I'll probably always remember, you know, when I look back at my career. And the nice thing about it was it put me in a position where something really special tomorrow can … you never know.”
Green with queasiness
Holes 16, 17 and 18 at Quail Hollow Club have combined to be by far the toughest three-hole finishing stretch on the PGA Tour since the inception of the Wells Fargo Championship on the course in 2003.
The combined holes dubbed The Green Mile have played an average of 0.916 strokes above par, with the No. 2 finishing stretch being the Memorial Tournament’s Muirfield Village, which has played 0.598 above par.
The finish should provide an exciting conclusion to the tournament Sunday. David Toms won in 2003 despite a quadruple-bogey 8 on the 18th hole.
“Having three tough finishing holes in a major, you know, you know that most likely it’s going to come down to those last three holes,” Dustin Johnson said. “Having a good game plan, a good strategy, and executing obviously is going to be the big key.”
The 506-yard par-4 16th hole has water to the left and behind the green, the 223-yard par-3 17th has a peninsula green with the only bailout area to the right, and the 494-yard par-4 18th has a creek running up the entire left side of the hole.
The holes are living up to their reputation this week, playing as the three hardest holes on the course at about a combined 1.21 strokes over par.
“It will be an exciting finish, I think, with 16, 17 and 18, and even with the drivable par-4 14th in there as well,” Rory McIlroy said. “You’ve got four of the last five holes with water and excitement, and I think it will be an exciting finish to the tournament if there’s a few guys up around the lead at that point.”
Third-round leader Kevin Kisner has the course sectioned in three parts, and hopes to be in good shape by the time he gets to the finishing stretch. “The first five or six holes, if you can escape those you can play the next eight, and the last three are hold on for dear life,” Kisner said.
A cut above
Steve Stricker, 50, captain of the 2017 U.S. Presidents Cup team, extended his active best streak of consecutive cuts made in majors to 26 with a 3-over 145 through two rounds. He shot 72 in the third round and is tied for 47th at 4-over 217.
The cut was at 5 over par and better.
Those who were not around for the remainder of the weekend following the conclusion of the second round Saturday morning included Justin Rose and Kevin Na by one shot at 6-over 148, and those missing the cut by two shots included Luke Donald, Tyrrell Hatton, Daniel Berger, Graeme McDowell, Rafa Cabrera Bello and Bubba Watson at 149.
Others missing the cut were reigning PGA champion Jimmy Walker, reigning Masters champion Sergio Garcia, Matthew Fitzpatrick, Jhonny Vegas, Ernie Els and William McGirt at 8-over 150, Branden Grace and Padraig Harrington at 151, Jim Furyk, Wesley Bryan and Danny Willett at 152, and Phil Mickelson, John Daly and Davis Love III at 153.
Mickelson’s missed cut is his first in a PGA Championship since 1995, ending his record streak of 21 straight cuts in the tournament.
Uresti carries torch
A club professional has made the cut in a PGA Championship for the second time in six years, as Omar Uresti of Austin, Texas, played his back nine 4-under par Friday to shoot a 70 and comfortably make the cut at 2-over 144.
Uresti came back to earth with an 80 on Saturday.
Twenty PGA of America professionals qualify for the event that is operated by their parent organization, and Uresti is the first club pro since Brian Gaffney in 2015 to play in the final two rounds.
Friday was a memorable day for the 1991 Texas graduate as his mother, Minnie, 79, and father, Lupe, 77, walked Quail Hollow following his group.
Uresti qualified by winning the 50th PGA Professional Championship in June in Sunriver, Ore., the same tournament The Dunes Golf and Beach Club in Myrtle Beach hosted in 2016.
Uresti hasn’t always been a club pro. He has played in more than 350 PGA Tour events and was a tour member for 11 full seasons between 1995 and 2010, recording 14 top-10 finishes. He qualified for two previous PGA Championships and missed two cuts with a cumulative score of 25-over par.
Home sweet home
Kevin Kisner was born in Aiken and has remained a resident in his birthplace pretty much his entire life, leaving only to attend Georgia.
“When I was playing mini-tours and I was broke, that’s the only place I could afford to buy a house and I went back there,” Kisner said. “I just love it. I have a core group of friends that we hang out with that don’t pester me about golf and we hang out and have a couple beers on the back porch. That’s what I love about it.”
A lot of players have moved to metropolitan areas such as Charlotte for benefits that include easier travel, while others have moved to states such as Florida and Texas for benefits that include milder winters and no state income tax.
But Kisner appears to be entrenched in his small Upstate hometown.
“I love to just go home and hang out with my buddies in the country, go out where there’s no cell phone service and spend the afternoon,” Kisner said. “I love to fish, love to shoot guns, love to hunt, just get away from it.”