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5 Things We Learned on Day 3 of The Open

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5. Bones Can See The Future

At the beginning of the NBC Coverage, Dan Hicks asked Jim “Bones” MacKay what he expected to see out on the course today. After a few quick explanations of the conditions and the setup, Bones quickly said, “Don’t tell Johnny, but I could see a 62 today.” Sure enough, Branden Grace went on a few hours later to post the lowest round ever in a Major Championship (unless you’re Dan Jenkins and can’t let go of the past).

Grace played spectacular golf, which is not uncharacteristic of the young South African. He had a chance to win the 2015 U.S. Open at Chambers Bay until he was derailed on the par-3 16th that year. Not everyone gets another chance to win a major, but Grace put himself right in the mix with a 62 that’s sure to break Johnny Miller’s heart. He also happened to pick Spieth as the winner this year, or at least the guy he was keeping his eye on. Not exactly a dark-horse pick, but that doesn’t take away from the apparent success of his pick thus far.

4. Lack Of Poor Weather Is An Equalizer

The Open Championship boasted an average age of 39 for the winner over the last couple of decades, but with a lack of wind and rain on Saturday experience is less of a factor. Soft and slow greens allowed for players to take aim at pins and sink downhill putts you’re not supposed to make. The best round in major history was shot today by a 29-year-old South African without a major victory and the leaderboard has as many 20-somethings as it does wily veterans. Richie Ramsay and 20-year-old Austin Connelly posted a pair of 66s today, which puts Connelly in the second to last group. Even though Spieth and Kuchar are three shots clear of the field, anyone could shoot another 62 tomorrow and put the pressure on if the weather holds.

3. Stenson’s Open Championship Hangover Is Long Gone

We’ll always remember the duel from last year at Royal Troon when Phil Mickelson lost by three shots after shooting a final-round 65. Stenson’s form since last year’s win hasn’t been great, but after posting his own 65 today he’s in the mix. If the “Ice Man” hits his signature frozen rope 3-woods and iron shots, then it could be a final round to remember. Stenson’s rental house was broken into earlier in the week, and while this could cause undue stress on a typical player, it could also provide just enough distraction from the golf at hand to prevent nerves from setting in. Golf is a funny game, and you never know what outside factors could hurt or help a player’s game. He proved to us last year that he can sink putts when he needs to, and without the added pressure of being the final group, Stenson could go out early and post a number that rattles the field.

2. Kuchar Has Staying Power

Matt Kuchar has long been a beloved pro by golf fans, but to this point, he’s been unable to take his game to the next level and break through in a major. The adage used to be in golf, “put yourself in contention enough times, you’ll eventually come out on top.” The young guns on tour have thrown that path to victory out the window, but that hasn’t stopped Kuchar from hanging around leaderboards for the past decade. Nobody would have faulted him if he’d shot even par and dropped a few spots today, but he didn’t. Despite making a horrific double bogey on No. 16, he rallied with an impressive bunker shot to set up a tap-in birdie on No. 17. He followed that with an incredible shot from the left rough on No. 18 to set up one of only nine birdies on the final hole in Round 3. Kuchar missed the putt, but who can blame him after Spieth sank an uppercut of a putt just before. With eight top-10s and 19 top-25s in majors, Kuchar is due to hold a trophy, but it’s going to take something magical to oust the young gentleman.

1. Spieth Could Be Wire-To-Wire King

Taking a three-shot lead into Sunday, having held at least a share of the lead for three rounds, Jordan Spieth could be only the second player in history to win two majors in wire-to-wire fashion. The other player? Rory McIlroy. Spieth made it around Royal Birkdale with a bogey-free 65 today capped off by an incredibly clutch birdie on No. 18. A win tomorrow makes him the second-youngest player to ever win three legs of the career grand slam, behind only Jack Nicklaus. It also means he’ll have a winning percentage of 15.7 percent in major championships at the age of 23, finishing inside the top-25 in 53 percent of major appearances. Spieth simply needs to repeat what he did in the final round of the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am in February to hoist the Claret Jug. If today was any indication, and with no Rae’s creek at Royal Birkdale, he’ll have no problem doing so.

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Adam Crawford is a writer of many topics but golf has always been at the forefront. An avid player and student of the game, Adam seeks to understand both the analytical side of the game as well as the human aspect - which he finds the most important. You can find his books at his website, chandlercrawford.com, or on Amazon.

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Monday’s Photos from the 2018 Honda Classic

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GolfWRX is live this week from the 2018 Honda Classic at PGA National’s Champion course (par 70: 7,110 yards) in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida.

The field this week is stacked at the top, and it includes defending-champion Rickie Fowler, 2017 FedEx Champion Justin Thomas, four-time major champion Rory McIlroy, and reigning Masters champion Sergio Garcia, who’s making his first PGA Tour start of 2018. Also in the field is Tiger Woods, who committed to play in the event just last week. Woods is coming off a disappointing missed cut at the 2018 Genesis Open.

Last year, Fowler won by four shots over Morgan Hoffmann and Gary Woodland, despite playing his final round in 1-over par.

Check out our photos from the 2018 Honda Classic below!

Monday’s Photos

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Discussion: See what GolfWRX members are saying about the photos in our forums.

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Tour Rundown: Bubba is back (from near retirement)

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The California cruise on the PGA Tour came to an end at Riviera, as it always does. Tiger Woods played poorly over the George Thomas classic, as he always does. Oh, and Bubba Watson showed why he is not in the ranks of ballers Dustin Johnson and Gary Woodland. Big wins were earned from Australia to Florida, by 22 year olds and 41 year youngs. Our tour rundown runs gathers results from five unique tours, and breaks each triumph down for you. Have a glance at this week’s Tour Rundown.

Watson returns to form with third Genesis Open win

There are too many ledes to unearth for this one: Horses for courses or Mercurial Watson, or how about My wife’s the hoops star, I’m the golfer? Whatever was in that Tracy McGrady rejection on Friday night was the medicine Bubba Watson needed to return to the winner’s circle. Along the way, Watson schooled the 20-somethings (and even the other Lefty) on how to close the deal in Hogan’s Alley.

How Watson came back from near-retirement

While the siren song of the candy store, car dealership and baseball team might have been strong, Bubba Watson wanted to be a champion golfer again. After nine, up-and-down holes (3 birdies and 2 bogeys) on Sunday, Watson was looking up at Patrick Cantlay, Kevin Na and even Phil Mickelson. Not to worry, as the Florida portsider had played the inward half under par all week. Watson closed with 3 birdies and 0 bogeys over his final 9 holes, sealing a 2-stroke win over Na and Tony Finau.

See the clubs Bubba used to win the 2018 Genesis Open

How a quartet missed out

Let’s summarize: Na played the back side in 1-under par and needed Watson’s 3-under for a playoff; Tony Finau was 2-under on the closing half, but needed double that for extra holes; Phil Mickelson bogeyed 15 and 16 when he knew that birdies were needed; Patrick Cantlay played 1 over in his final 9, when 2-under would have meant playoff. All the also-rans and almost-weres didn’t do what Watson did: close the deal.

Jin Young Ko secures Australian Open on LPGA Tour

It’s a stretch to call Jin Young Ko an LPGA player, as her first 9 wins came on the LPGA of Korea tour. In October and now in February, Ko bested world-class fields to win co-sanctioned events, and is now a two-time LPGA champion. At this rate, it might be difficult for her to remain tethered to the Korean tour.

How Ko won the week

A 7-under 65 on Thursday was the fuel Ko needed to take a lead that she would not relinquish. Although Katherine Kirk matched that number on Sunday, no one was able to wrest the advantage from the 22-year old Ko. Two rounds of 69 and one of 71 brought her to 14-under on the week. On day four, Ko started quickly with two opening birdies. A pair of bogeys on the outward half kept her within sight of the field, but birdies at 9, 13 and 17 were the recipe for re-establishing her three-shot margin of victory.

How she kept the field at bay

The challenging Kooyoonga golf club was not very free with low rounds this week. Ko’s compatriot Hyejin Choi, posted a flawless 67 on Sunday to move up one spot, into solo second at 11-under. In third and fourth were a pair of Australians, Hannah Green at 10-under and the aforementioned Katherine Kirk, at 9-under. Marina Alex was the low USA golfer at 7-under, tied for fifth spot with Minjee Lee.

Oman Open on European Tour

Joost Luiten began the fourth day at Oman in a three-way tie for first spot, but asserted himself early on Sunday with birdies on holes 2 through 4. It was enough to separate from the field, and he was able to hold off Chris Wood to earn his 8th European Tour title, by two strokes.

How Luiten claimed victory

After the fiery beginning, Luiten cooled off in the later stages of the opening nine holes. Bogeys at 7 and 8 brought him back to the field, but he wasn’t done for the afternoon. Luiten birdied 12 and 13, then added the clincher on a tricky birdie putt on the 16th hole. That final birdie gave him a 2-shot separation on Chris Wood, and he held on for pars at the final two holes for a 68 on the day and 16-under for the tournament.

How Wood and others came up shy

Matthew Southgate and Julien Guerrier began Sunday in a tie with Luiten, but the day turned sour early for Southgate. The Englishman had four bogeys in a five-hole stretch. Two more miscues on the inward half dropped him into a three-way tie for ninth at 9-under par. Guerrier held the wheel a bit steadier: two bogeys at the turn were offset by three birdies coming in, and the young Frenchman was able to coax a solo third-place finish out of the week. It was Chris Wood who gave the greatest chase to Luiten. Wood had four birdies on the day, and was in a tie at the top at 15-under, when he yanked a drive at 17 and found a hazard. Although he was able to play his ball, the ensuing bogey was the mistake he could not afford. A par at the last placed him at 14-under, one shot clear of Guerrier and two behind the champion.

Durant welcomes second PGA Tour Champions title at Chubb Classic

Technically, it’s his third, but the first was a two-man win with Billy Andrade. Durant probably caught wind that Billy Mayfair and Tim Petrovic were going super-low (8-under on Sunday) and that David Toms was at their heels (7-under on the day.) Each of those three earned a top-four finish, but Durant took matters into his own hands over the closing seven holes. He left Naples as the 2018 Chubb champion.

When Joe Durant woke up

Durant was 1-over through 7 holes on Sunday, headed in the wrong direction. Birdies on 8 and 9 reminded him that he still had a chance, but the eagle on 13 kicked his game into a higher gear. Birdies at 14, 17 and 18 were enough to offset a bogey at 15, and Durant cruised home with a four-stroke victory over Mayfair, Toms, Petrovic, Lee Janzen and Steve Stricker.

How that quintet fell away

After eight birdies through 14 holes on day 3, Mayfair had zero over his closing four. Toms did the opposite-He played the outward half in 2-under, but came home in 5-under to reach the podium. Petrovic had 4 birdies on each half, but also simply ran out of holes. Janzen threw an early scare into the eventual champion, but two bogeys and not enough chirps were his undoing. Stricker’s finish was the most painful. Within site of Durant and needing birdie at the last for 18-under, Stricker was forced to go for the flag, and instead got wet. His double-bogey finish dropped him from solo second to the five-way tie.

Daniel Fox surprises at Australian PGA championship

Daniel Fox had one previous victory on the Australasian circuit, but he made the most of opportunity’s knock on Sunday. The 41-year old played error-free golf over his final 14 holes, counting 6 birdies for a one-stroke victory over Matthew Millar and Steven Jeffress.

How Fox found the winner’s platform

Fox might say he was the last man standing, and none would argue. The runners-up had chances at birdie at the final hole, but neither one could convert. Fox counted three rounds of 65 and one of 67 on his card.  On the week, he had three bogeys and one double, against 21 birdies and one eagle. In an event where the margin ‘twixt victory and not-victory was razor-thin, Daniel Fox shaved the final whisker.

How Millar and Jeffress came up short

The easy answer would be: they didn’t birdie the 72nd hole. Jeffress had the low round (63) of the week, but his 67-67-66 lost ground on the other three days! As for Millar, one might point to his last two, outward nines. On both weekend days, he made nine consecutive pars to open his round. Against a par of 33, it wasn’t bad, but he gained no ground on the leader. Millar’s stat line for the week read: one eagle, 21 birdies, six bogeys. Yup, nearly identical to Fox, but nearly is the operative word.

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Tiger Woods fires second-round 76, will miss Genesis Open cut

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Tiger Woods’ trip to Los Angeles is over sooner than he’d hoped. Woods fired a 5-over 76 during the second round of the Genesis Open to miss the presumed cut at Riviera by four strokes (the second round won’t be completed until Saturday morning due to darkness).

Hopes were high Woods would continue to build on a T-23 finish at the Farmers Insurance Open. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case, as the driving woes that plagued him at Torrey Pines followed him to the Riv, despite changing shafts in his TaylorMade M3.

RELATED: Tiger Woods WITB

Wayward off the tee, Woods made eight bogeys Friday, unable to grind out a decent score as he did with his opening-round 1-over 72. He was unable to rely on his putter the way did in this first round, three-putting back-to-back holes (No. 11 and 12). A stretch of three straight bogeys sunk Woods’ hopes of hanging around for the weekend.

(c/o PGATour.com)

We won’t have to wait long to see the Big Cat back in action, however, as Woods committed to next week’s Honda Classic at PGA National in Florida. Woods most recently put a peg in the ground at the course in 2014, where he ultimately withdrew due to back spasms.

The 79-time PGA Tour winner hasn’t teed it in back-to-back weeks since 2015, so while fans may not be encouraged by his play, at least he continues to be free from any issues with his surgically repaired back.

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