Keegan Bradley made the most out of his 1,000th career PGA TOUR round, as his 8-under par 54-hole total leads the way at the Wells Fargo Championship.
Bradley held low-round honors for the second consecutive day and one of just four Saturday rounds under par, which tied the fourth round of the Arnold Palmer Invitational for fewest sub-par rounds.
“When the conditions get like this, I find a sense of calm just because I’m sort of worried about other things, keeping my clubs dry and my bag dry,” Bradley said. “Sort of keeps me in the present. I did that today and I just had a great time with my caddie Scotty (Vail). We’re a good team and we did a lot of good things today.”
Bradley’s last PGA TOUR win was at the 2018 BMW Championship at Aronimink Golf Club, where similar inclement weather stopped play for a day and the one-time major champion won in a playoff against Justin Rose.
The Vermont native was even par on his first nine but birdies at 11, 12 and 16 allowed him to push through.
Bradley ranks first with 4.851 Strokes Gained: Off the Tee, fifth in Strokes Gained: Putting at 5.859 and sixth with 4.430 Strokes Gained: Approach the Green.
This is Bradley’s first 54-hole lead since the 2013 Byron Nelson. He will be looking to win for the first time in four tries after holding such an advantage.
A victory for Bradley would put him inside the top 60 in the Official World Golf Ranking and allow him entry into the U.S. Open at The Country Club of Brookline, which would serve as a home game of sorts.
“It’s on my mind,” he said. “I know what’s at stake. A lot of good things can come with a good round tomorrow.”
Max Homa led for much of the day but bogeys on 11 and 12 allowed for Bradley to catch up. Even so, Homa stayed in the fight and was second on the day with his 1.897 Strokes Gained: Off the Tee and his one over round, puts him two shots behind Bradley’s lead.
One recent change to Homa’s game has been a switch to AimPoint Putting, which he was introduced to in New Orleans.
Homa was asked where he would start a putt and found out, his read were off, so he in turn has started practicing with his feet. After 54 holes, Homa is fifth with 5.589 Strokes Gained: Putting.
“I wouldn’t say I’ve mastered it by any means, but just getting a little bit better every day at home really grinding, making sure I’m practicing the percentages and little things like that,” said Homa.
Jason Day led by three strokes heading into the third round but had about an hour-long period where he battled his swing that would take him out of contention.
He started with a bogey on the par-3 third hole and then lost a tee shot on the very next hole into the water. His third shot left him well wide of the fair and in a deep lie. Day would record triple bogey on the hole and bogey the next as well.
He would finish 9-over par for the day and has an overall total of 1-under as his mistakes compounded. His brief post-round comments indicated that he did not have his best stuff and that his repeated hitting into penalty areas stunted his round.
Overall, the weather wreaked havoc on the field as wind gusts reached 30 miles an hour. The rainfall since Wednesday has approached three inches and never once has the horn blown. Even so, play has been noticeably slower with the final group playing 18 holes in nearly six hours.
The course did not yield any bogey-free rounds, with Anirban Lahiri the last to flinch with his miscue on the 12th hole.
“It’s hard to commit to shots, it’s hard to make decisions,” he said. “So you have to get really clear before you pull the trigger what exactly you’re trying to do, and that’s almost the easy part because executing it is no joke. You’re fighting a lot of elements and you just try and stay in the moment and find your ball, hit it and try and think ‘okay, where do I put it next.'”
With the course being a game of survival, it was tougher to go flag hunting, with the round being more based on finding a target and executing a shot based off of that.
“There were very few times today that I was really trying to hit it super close,” said Homa. “Very rarely was I aiming at a pin today just because you’re hitting a 5-iron, 6-iron, it’s wet, the ball can squeeze anywhere. So I was trying my best to give myself a little bit of a bail-out everywhere.”
Defending champion Rory McIlroy was one of the four rounds under par at 2-under, which currently has him tied for sixth place.
Saturday’s third-round scoring average was 3.662 strokes above par, the highest total since round four of the 2020 U.S. Open.
The final round will be played in traditional twosomes with tee times going from 8 a.m.-1:35 p.m.
WELLS FARGO CHAMPIONSHIP LEADERBOARD
- Keegan Bradley -8
Max Homa -6
T3. James Hahn -4
T3. Anirban Lahiri -4
- Matt Fitzpatrick -3
T6. Brian Harman -2
T6. Denny McCarthy -2
T6. Rory McIlroy -2
T6. Chad Ramey -2
T6. Matthew Wolff -2
T6. Cameron Young -2