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    Golf roundup

    Bubba Watson trades jump shots for putts — and third-round lead at Riviera

    PACIFIC PALISADES, CA - FEBRUARY 17: Bubba Watson plays his shot from the second tee during the third round of the Genesis Open at Riviera Country Club on February 17, 2018 in Pacific Palisades, California. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
    Christian Petersen/Getty Images
    Bubba Watson was in fine form in the third round, shotting a 6-under-par 65 at Riviera Country Club.

    Back to his day job, Bubba Watson started with a tap-in eagle and finished with a 6-under-par 65 to build a one-shot lead Saturday in the Genesis Open.

    Yes, golf is much easier for him that basketball.

    And the highlights are going to look a lot better than when he took part in the NBA All-Star celebrity challenge Friday night.


    Watson fired an air ball from just inside the top of the key. He passed up an open jumper to drive toward the basketball, only for Tracy McGrady to reject him.

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    Watson looked much more efficient swinging a golf club.

    He was at 10-under-par 2013 as he tries to end a slump that dates to his last victory two years ago at Riviera. Sunday will be the first time he has had the lead going into the final round since that event.

    ‘‘The trend is going in the right direction, and that’s what I'm looking for,’’ Watson said. ‘‘If I don’t win tomorrow, or if I do win tomorrow, I'm still going in the right direction.’’

    He will be in the final group with Patrick Cantlay, the former No. 1 amateur in the world and polar opposite of Watson.


    Cantlay thrives on his ability to keep his head on the shot in front of him, and to keep his emotions from swinging too much in either direction. He ended his round with a 55-foot birdie putt for a 69 to get within one shot of Watson.

    Cameron Smith (65), Kevin Na (67), Graeme McDowell (70), and Tony Finau (68) were two shots back.

    Suddenly in the mix was defending champion Dustin Johnson, who was going nowhere until he made the turn and had a quick chat with Austin, his brother and caddie.

    ‘‘I looked over at AJ and I said, ‘We've got 27 holes to see how good we are. We can get back in this thing if we play really well,'’’ Johnson said. He made eagle on his way to a 29 on the front for a 64, and Johnson wound up four shots off the lead.

    As much attention as Cantlay’s long putt on the 18th gets, it was a series of pars on the front nine that saved him.


    That started with a short-sided bunker shot and a 10-foot par putt. He missed the green left on the par-3 fourth hole and hit a lofted chip to 3 feet. He made a 10-foot par putt on No. 5 and another one that length at No. 7.

    ‘‘That was huge for the momentum,’’ he said.

    His best work came on No. 6, the par 3 with the bunker in the middle. It goes in the books as a two-putt par. It was so much more.

    Justin Bieber and Bubba Watson played in the NBA All-Star Game Celebrity Game at Los Angeles Convention Center on Friday night.
    Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images
    Bubba Watson (left) and Justin Bieber played in the NBA All-Star Game Celebrity Game at Los Angeles Convention Center on Friday night.

    Cantlay pulled his tee shot to the left side of the green, with the pin on the other side of the bunker. Cantlay figured he could putt around the high side of the bunker that would assure a 15-foot par putt from below the hole. Instead, he pitched it off the green and over the bunker, past the hole and up the slope, and then it rolled down toward the hole and narrowly missed.

    It was so close that Cantlay began to run toward the low side of the bunker to watch, a rare display of excitement.

    ‘‘I was able to get so much height on it off that tight, downhill lie off the green that I thought it would be pretty good when it was in the air,’’ Cantlay said.

    When the second round finished early Saturday, Cantlay and Graeme McDowell shared the lead at 7-under 135.

    Sam Saunders was tied for the lead until he made bogey on his final hole for a 69. He was one shot behind, along with Ryan Moore.

    Watson shot a 1-under 70 in the second round, tied for seventh place, before making his way to the LA Convention Center to play for Team Clippers.

    Watson said before the basketball game that he got some grief from his fellow golfers about taking up a second sport while in contention.

    ‘‘When you have a chance to win like that, why would you still want to come over here? Cause life is short,’’ said Watson, who had 2 points, three rebounds, one assist, and one steal. ‘‘Life is fun, man, and so I want to be here.’’

    LPGA — Jin Young Ko continued her domination of the Women’s Australian Open, shooting a 1-under 71 to increase her lead to four strokes after three rounds in Adelaide.

    Ko, who led after each of the opening two rounds, had a three-round total of 11-under 205 at Kooyonga Golf Club.

    Australian Hannah Green moved into second place after the round of the day, a 66.

    Green, 21, is seeking to become the first Australian to claim her national crown since Karrie Webb won the last of her five titles in 2014.

    Webb, who is playing a part-time schedule in 2018, missed the cut Friday by one stroke.

    Green birdied her first three holes Saturday and then added two more on the eighth and ninth.

    Two more birdies followed on the back nine with her only dropped shot a bogey on the 17th.

    ‘‘I was very pleased with my ball striking,’’ Green said. ‘‘I have put myself in contention so I'm very happy with how things are panning out.

    ‘‘It was a real shame about Karrie missing the cut, but I know she has got different plans.’’

    Hyejin Choi (70), was tied for third, five strokes behind. Minjee Lee was tied for fifth after a 69, six off the lead.

    Former No. 1 Lydia Ko shot a 71 and was eight strokes behind.

    Champions — Joe Durant birdied five of the last eight holes for a 9-under 63 to take the second-round lead at the Chubb Classic in Naples, fla.

    Durant rebounded from a three-putt bogey on the par-4 10th with birdies on the next two holes and also birdied Nos. 15-17. He had a 14-under 130 for a one-stroke lead over Steve Stricker.

    ‘‘You’re going to laugh at me when I tell you this, but it was actually a par I made on my first hole,’’ Durant said. ‘‘I pulled my tee shot left, went into a bush, and had to take an unplayable, had to drop back, and hit an 8-iron about 15 feet and made par and it was kind of like, ‘OK, well, maybe the putter is going to work today.'’’

    Stricker had nine birdies in a bogey-free round.

    ‘‘I look forward to playing with Steve,’’ Durant said. ‘‘He’s a class act, one of my buddies out here, and obviously he is playing well and he had a great round today. It will be a shootout tomorrow, no question, but it will be fun.’’

    The 53-year-old Durant has two Champions victories after winning four times on the PGA Tour.

    The 50-year-old Stricker is making his first start of the year on the 50-and-over tour after playing six tournaments last year — a runner-up finish in his debut and three third-places ties but not a victory.

    ‘‘That’s why I'm here, to try to win the golf tournament,’’ the 12-time PGA Tour winner said.

    He played the last two weeks on the PGA Tour, tying for 31st in the Phoenix Open and tying for 26th at Pebble Beach.

    ‘‘You can be a little more patient on the big tour because pars sometimes are good scores,’’ Stricker said. ‘‘Out here you need to make some birdies and when you see guys running away, that’s when you lose your patience, at least I did yesterday.’’

    Playing alongside John Daly, Stricker birdied three of the last four on the front nine and birdied the last two for a back-nine 31.

    ‘‘Yesterday, I wasn’t very patient and I let a couple slip away that I should have had,’’ Stricker said. ‘‘On the par 5s on my second nine yesterday, I walked away from a couple pars, and that was frustrating. So I kind of let that get to me. Today, I was a lot more patient, and I felt it on the greens. When you’re patient on the greens, you tend to roll the ball a little bit better, and I rolled a lot of nice putts.’’

    First-round leader Miguel Angel Jimenez was two strokes back. He birdied three of the last four in a 68 after opening with a 64.

    ‘‘Tomorrow is going to be a fight,’’ Jimenez said. ‘‘It’s going to be nice. As long as you are around the lead, one shot behind, one shot ahead. A lot of golf to come. Just play golf, let everything come.’’

    Lee Janzen (67) was 11 under, and Kevin Sutherland (68) and Scott McCarron (68) were another stroke back. Daly was 8 under after his second 68. Three-time champion Bernhard Langer had a 70 to get to 5 under.

    European — Joost Luiten shot his second straight 6-under 66 to move into a three-way tie for the lead at the Oman Open in Muscat. Also at 12-under 204 was Matthew Southgate (69) and Julien Guerrier (66) after the third round at the Greg Norman-designed Al Mouj Golf Club.

    Chris Wood (69), another man on the comeback trail, was in fourth place at 11 under, but it could have been a lot better if not for a bogey-bogey finish. Adrian Otaegui (66) was a shot behind Wood while pre-tournament favorite, Alexander Levy (67), was at 9 under.

    The 90th-ranked Luiten credited some hot iron play for his success after a cracked driver set him back last year when he had just two top-10 finishes the whole season.

    ‘‘I cracked my driver in my first tournament of the year in Abu Dhabi and it took me almost six months to get another one that I really liked. Once you are not driving the ball well, it puts pressure on other parts of your game,’’ said the 32-year-old Luiten. ‘‘My iron play did not get me into trouble at all today.’’

    Southgate was quick off the block with three birdies in his first three holes. But the Englishman then made two bogeys and a double bogey in his next four holes, and a birdie on the ninth saw him make the turn at even-par.

    That forced him to think differently for the back nine and he was rewarded with three birdies.

    ‘‘It was quite funny really,’’ Southgate said. ‘‘We birdied the ninth and I walked off and said to my caddie Gary . . . ‘We've just shot level par, so let’s just pretend that we've made nine solid pars and that we haven’t holed a putt and haven’t made a birdie. Let’s just start again on the 10th.’ ”

    The 32-year-old Guerrier started his round with a monster 48-foot birdie putt and had an eagle, six birdies and two bogeys.