NORTON — Jeff Overton tried to resist the urge to steal a glance at the leaderboard Friday at the Deutsche Bank Championship. He was more focused on his putter, which had been temperamental headed into the PGA Tour playoffs, but now was in an agreeable mood.
“I looked at it briefly,’’ Overton acknowledged. “I didn’t even realize that I just made my third birdie in a row [on No. 14]. I was just hoping, I was just really hoping, trying to pay attention to my putter and trying to make the putts I needed to make.’’
When Overton sank a 7-foot birdie putt on No. 15 to go to 5 under for his first round, the 29-year-old native of Evansville, Ind., finally decided to take stock of where he stood in the tournament, looking up at the leaderboard to see he trailed none other than Tiger Woods by three strokes.
“I looked up, and Tiger was running away with it,’’ Overton said. “I was sitting there kind of thinking, ‘Man, he’s probably licking his chops right now.’ I’m like, ‘Well, maybe we can have a good finish,’ and somehow I kind of used that as motivation.’’
Woods bogeyed No. 9, the last hole of his round, and Overton birdied No. 18 with what he described as “probably one of the best chip shots I’ve ever hit in my life.”
Overton, as a result, grabbed a temporary share of the lead with Woods.
Until, that is, Overton found himself in a three-way tie for third at 7 under with Woods and Ryan Moore, after Chris Kirk birdied No. 7 to take sole possession of second behind 21-year-old PGA rookie Seung-Yul Noh, who birdied 17 and 18 to claim a one-stroke lead at 9-under 62.
But Overton had done all he could with his fabulous chip shot on 18.
“I hit it over the green, short-side left,’’ Overton said of TPC Boston’s revamped 18th green, which was elevated and reduced in size. “Hit a flop chip shot that landed 12-15 feet right of the hole right in the fringe, and then it kicked it over like a yo-yo right toward the hole and almost made it, to like 2 inches.’’
It left Overton with a tap-in birdie for an inward 30 that drew him that much closer to a spot among the top 70 for the BMW Championship, the penultimate event of the PGA Tour playoffs, next week at Crooked Stick in Carmel, Ind.
“It’s a big motivation,’’ said Overton, a 2005 graduate of Indiana University who has never played the famed course as a PGA Tour professional. “The last time I think there was a tournament in Indiana, a PGA event, was when [John] Daly won [the PGA Championship in 1991].
“I played Crooked Stick a bunch and in college we played it, and every year I seem like I always pop up there a few times a year because it’s an awesome place. Spent a little time there the last couple of months, and I’m constantly getting a lot of great text messages, and people saying, ‘We’re really excited to see you at Crooked Stick,’ just the whole Hoosier Nation. It’s going to be fun if I can get into the event.’’
After missing the cut at The Barclays (72-73—145) last weekend, Overton entered the Deutsche Bank ranked 83d in the FedEx Cup points race. He needs to finish 37th or better here to qualify for the BMW Championship.
“Starting last night, I was like, I’m just going to do just a little mind work and think about my round and really focus on making sure I got off to a good start this week,’’ Overton said. “Because I know I need to have a good finish to get there. It would just mean a whole lot if I could get into that tournament.’’