NORTON — Sergio Garcia was quick with a correction when asked about winning just once in the last five years. That’s on the PGA Tour, Garcia offered. There have been multiple victories on the European Tour during that span.
“It’s still tough to win,” Garcia said. “Even on the European Tour.”
This one won’t be any easier. Garcia is the man to catch at TPC Boston, taking a two-shot lead into the final round of the Deutsche Bank Championship. His 6-under-par 65 wasn’t Sunday’s low — seven scores were better — but it pushed Garcia to 19 under, matching the tournament’s 54-hole scoring record, set just last year.
Assuming the weather holds — tee times have been moved up; more on that later — Monday’s final round will have Garcia in front, but plenty of players trying to chase him down. Henrik Stenson (66) is two shots back, Graham DeLaet (62) and Steve Stricker (63) three behind, and Jason Dufner (66) and Roberto Castro (68) trailing by four.
The fact that the final group of Garcia, Stenson, and Castro was even able to finish Round 3 was a small miracle. Morning storms initially caused a delay, then prompted tour officials to take a mulligan and re-pair the field, wiping out anything the early starters had done to that point, good or bad. A split-tee start was implemented, and when play resumed at 12:15 p.m., players were permitted to lift, clean, and place their golf balls (only in the fairway) because of the wet conditions.
With little wind and a still-saturated course, players knew it would become a birdiefest.
“You can see that everybody was making birdies,” Garcia said. “You could make a lot of birdies if everything went exactly the right way, kind of like it went on the back nine for me. But you have to be patient and just wait for the right time.”
That came on Sunday after Garcia made the turn. He made five birdies on the back nine, including a two-putt birdie at No. 18. Before that, he had birdied the four par 4s on the back nine: Nos. 10, 12, 13, and 15. The birdie at the 15th came after Garcia’s only bogey, and built his lead back to two shots. None of Garcia’s birdie putts converted were longer than 8 feet.
Stenson, who trailed Garcia by one shot heading into the third round, ran past the Spaniard with birdies on Nos. 1, 2, and 4. He was able to draw within one shot with birdies on both back-nine par 3s, but three-putted the 17th for his only bogey to drop two behind.
Garcia and Stenson will be paired in the final round with DeLaet. Because of the iffy weather forecast, tour officials pushed the start times up and again will send threesomes off using split tees. The final group is scheduled to tee off at 10 a.m.
This is DeLaet’s third full season on tour, but he knows what this time of year is all about. It’s the playoffs. DeLaet hasn’t shaved for a while. Playoff beard?
“Yeah. I’m Canadian, that’s what we do in the playoffs, you don’t shave until you’re done,” said DeLaet, born in Saskatchewan and quite partial to the Calgary Flames. He tried the playoff beard trick last year, too, when he played in the first three events.
He might be on to something. DeLaet tied for second last week at the Barclays, and is now tied for third here. At No. 7 in the points standings he’ll be safely through to the next event, and seems like a lock for the Tour Championship.
His 62 was actually preceded by a hint of panic.
During the morning rain delay, DeLaet opted to drive his wife, Ruby, to Logan Airport because she was headed to Rome for a girls’ vacation. He was at Logan when the re-pairing was announced, and had a slow time getting back to the course, cutting short the time he likes to spend preparing for a typical round.
The round was anything but typical. It started with a bogey at the first, but DeLaet shook off that dropped shot by picking up 10 birdies. He had five on each nine, including a two-putt birdie at No. 18. He’s never won on tour; his best finish was last week.
Stricker didn’t even play last week, choosing to spend more time at home since he’s cut back his schedule. But when he’s played he’s played well, and came to TPC Boston with one goal in mind.
“My goal this week was to make the Presidents Cup team on my own merit. That was the goal,” Stricker said. “It’s provided a lot of incentive to me to play well here.”
Now that he’s only three shots back — thanks to an eagle at the last — Stricker has a new goal. Because if he wins the Deutsche Bank Championship for a second time (he held off Dufner in 2009), it’ll take care of his Presidents Cup aspirations.
It’s in Garcia’s hands, though. And perhaps Mother Nature’s. Even though he’s done very little wrong through three days, Garcia might not know about this tournament’s recent history. A year ago, Louis Oosthuizen was sitting at 19 under par through three rounds, setting the tournament’s 54-hole scoring record. He could manage only a 71, and was beaten by Rory McIlroy.
The course still will be soft. Birdies and eagles still will be made. There will be low scores. If it’s by Garcia, he can win on the PGA Tour for the second straight year.
“At the end of the day the only thing I can do is go out there and give it my best. Sometimes my best is quite good, and sometimes it’s not that good,” Garcia said.
“Hopefully I’ll be able to believe in the way I’ve been believing this whole weekend. If I’m able to do that I should have a chance, a good chance of winning.
“If not, then I’ll fight as hard as I can to get it.”