AKRON, Ohio — Harrison Frazar needed to get away from the grind of Firestone Country Club, the yardage books, gallery and all of the pressure that comes with leading the Kaulig Companies Championship, so he decided to occupy his time by seeing the new Mission Impossible movie.
After his flash interview Saturday afternoon, Frazar recalled his favorite stunt in the movie, mentioning the car chase scene in Rome.
By all accounts, Saturday could have resembled that with several World Golf Hall of Famers surrounding him and the lights shining brighter on the Texan, whose sole win on the PGA Tour came in the 2011 FedEx St. Jude Classic, but Frazar overcame all of that and heads into Sunday’s final round tied for the lead with Steve Stricker.
This is Frazar’s first lead or co-lead on the PGA Tour Champions.
“I feel like I need to have the same mindset I had today, be a little bit more confident off the tees, try to get a little bit more aggressive with the iron shots,” he said.
“I felt like today I hit a lot of good shots off the tee to hit the right spots, just it’s hard to hit these things. So just try to keep going, try to make a few more birdies.”
Frazar was able to have an even-par round despite hitting 6 of 14 fairways and 9 of 18 greens, while matching his lowest 54-hole score on the PGA Tour Champions.
“I’m just trying my best to be able to hit the next shot towards the green, and those are tight,” said Frazar. “We saw it today, like Stewart (Cink) and Ernie (Els) were hitting a lot of drivers, hitting some good shots that you end up in spots where you can’t play it.
“You can be very confident, you can hit great shots, you’re still going to miss these fairways, so you just have to try to pick your best spot, pick your poison and make a swipe.”
A win for Frazer would make him the second first-time winner on the PGA Tour Champions this season — joining Mark Hensby — and the 20th player to win on the Korn Ferry Tour, PGA Tour and PGA Tour Champions.
Back on top 1⃣
— PGA TOUR Champions (@ChampionsTour) July 15, 2023
Stricker came off a 3-over round and improved by eight shots, his 65 being the round of the day.
“I think that round yesterday was a real wake-up call,” Stricker said of Friday’s effort. “I’ve just been kind of, you know, going out and not thinking a lot and just letting things happen. Then yesterday, I hit some really poor shots and I’m like, ‘Wait a second’.
“I worked on it last night, ironed out a few kinks, need to do it again today, but a solid round.”
Stricker’s assessment is validated by hitting 12 of 14 fairways, tied for most in the field and 14 of 18 greens, which paced the 77 golfers who teed it up.
Strick doing Strick things.
— PGA TOUR Champions (@ChampionsTour) July 15, 2023
Though he missed a makeable birdie putt on the first hole, Stricker then drained two straight and was able to manage his ebbs and flows, which included a birdie on the 11th hole out of the bunker to string three birdies in his last four holes and also undo the blemish from the ninth hole.
“I hit a lot of good shots, missed some in the bad spots but missed the four greens in the proper spots,” said Stricker. “(I) holed one out of a bunker, which is always a good thing, at 11. I needed that round like that to get right back in there.”
As Stricker spoke after the round, he discussed the eight-shot transformation and how mechanical balanced the mental aspect.
“A little bit of both because, you know, to be quite honest with you, some of those shots I hit yesterday, I’m like, ‘Wow, I haven’t hit that kind of shot in a really long time,’ ” he said. “Then it messes with the mental side of things. Then I hit a couple more of those today.
“It’s hard to pull the trigger when you hit it that poorly on those couple of shots, but I did for the most part. I’m not swinging as freely as I’d like, but I managed to get it around with a good number.”
A win for Stricker would give his five for the first time since joining the PGA Tour Champions in 2017 and his 16th triumph overall on the circuit. This would also give him three majors this season, the first who could do it since Bernhard Langer, also in 2017.
Stewart Cink will round out the final group as he was around the lead the entire day and finished one shot back after a bogey on the final hole.
This is Cink’s second PGA Tour Champions start after finishing third at the KitchenAid Senior PGA Championship.
Though Cink has spent far more time on the PGA Tour, though he certainly feels comfortable based on these two results and having his wife Lisa on the bag.
It also helps that Cink is a fan of Firestone, though it is his first time back in over 10 years. He won the 2004 WGC-NEC Championship.
Ernis Els held the lead at 8-under par on the back nine, but his flinches on 13, 15 and 16 now have him two shots back, where he is tied with K.J. Choi.
Saturday’s tee times were moved up by two hours due to anticipated inclement weather and featured threesomes on split tees. Sunday will also feature split tees and threesomes, with the first ball in the air at 9:10 a.m.
• Steve Flesch withdrew prior to Saturday’s third round. No reason was given at the time of this article’s release.
• 2023 Kaulig Companies Championship Ambassador of Golf Stephen Curry recorded a hole in one at the American Century Championship on the par-3 seventh hole.
Curry saw the ball go in, took off his hat and sprinted towards the hole in celebration. As he got to the green, he jumped in the air, raced past the flag, hitting the stick with his hand, darting around the green to celebrate with the gallery.
STEPH CURRY HOLE-IN-ONE! 🔥🤯
The first EVER on the 152-yard 7th at the @ACChampionship!
— NBC Sports (@NBCSports) July 15, 2023
Kaulig Companies Championship Third Round Leaderboard
T1. Harrison Frazar -7
T1. Steve Stricker -7
- Stewart Cink -6
T4. K.J. Choi -5
T4. Ernie Els -5
- Scott Parel -4
David Toms -3
T8. Mark Hensby -1
T8. Jerry Kelly -1
T8. Bernhard Langer -1
T8. Jeff Maggert -1
T8. Rod Pampling -1
T8. Brett Quigley -1