EVENT #11 OAKMONT GERNEY TOUR THIRD ROUND
Jack Nicklaus and his sparkling 66 in the wind in the second round earned his spot in the final pairing today with the man who has led this tournament from the beginning, Dow Finsterwald. And, though it wasn’t the final round, there were few who could play even up with Nicklaus when there was something on the line.
Today, it was Nicklaus who blinked.
The wind was up again today with the scores reflecting that. With the cut made and the best 81 still playing, the aggregate was about 2 ½ shots over par. Finsterwald was one of them. But, with a two shot lead coming into today on Nicklaus and at least four on everyone else, his 73 kept Finsterwald atop the leaderboard.
In round one, it seemed as if Finsterwald couldn’t miss a green. As was the case yesterday, he had trouble finding them. But, yesterday, Finsterwald scrambled his was to an even par 70. Today, he had trouble doing that too and stumbled to a 73.
An opening hole bogey was his first missed scramble opportunity of the day. He’d miss three others in scrambling through half the holes on the venerable course. But a birdie at three got that back before a missed six-footer for par at six and a trip to the sand on the par three eighth sandwiched around a 31-foot putt for birdie at seven saw Finsterwald drop a net one shot on the front side.
The back side was uglier, saw Finsterwald unable to get within 30 feet of the pin with his approach on six different occasions with three more than ninety, and it started right from the tenth hole as a five-footer for birdie skidded by the hole. Twelve, the notorious and interminable par five, today playing at 643, saw Finsterwald’s tee shot land in a fairway bunker, his second end up in a ditch, eventually getting on in four while still needing nearly 100 feet for par (93, actually, with the pin way up front and Finsterwald laying four at the back) and, almost miraculously, two-putting, dropping in a five-footer to save a six. Thirteen was a scramble for par while fourteen saw Finsterwald putt from even further away than he did just two holes previous, his effort from the fringe at 105 feet stopping just three feet away. What’s the plan with lag putting, just try to get it “in the (three-foot) circle? Finsterwald did just that to save his par. Alas, Finsterwald’s lag putting skills abandoned him at fifteen. With him in the front of the green at the pin in the back, Finsterwald found himself looking at his third 90+ footer of the last four holes–this one from 104 feet. This effort missed my six feet and he couldn’t convert. The final three holes saw Finsterwald get on in regulation but face down birdie putts of 30 feet or more. The good news was he two-putted all, or his day could have been a lot worse.
As for Nicklaus, a 41 front saw the Golden Bear drop like a rock. At one, it took him four to get on at the par four with only an eighteen footer for bogey saving him. A driver duck hooked left at two led to another bogey. Nicklaus missed the green at the par three sixth and then missed an eight-footer for par. Seven looked like the first hole as Nicklaus again took four to get on at the par four. But his putter didn’t bail him out, missing from nine feet and making double. And, at the long par three eighth (285 today), Nicklaus pushed his 3-metal right, got sort of close with his second and the putter which couldn’t seem to miss yesterday, stuttered on a seven-foot par putt. Out in 41, Nicklaus actually birdied two on the back side but his double at seventeen when it took him four to get on a par four yet again, finished him off. 66 yesterday and two shots back turned into 77 today and a nine-way tie for seventeen at +2, six shots back.
Moving into contention and the next player to take on Finsterwald will be Walter Hagen, who tied Nick Price for the low round of the day at 67. For Price, it was a jump to thirteenth place, five shots back. For Hagen, he’s sitting just one behind the leader.
Hagen seemed to figure out the wind quite nicely, starting from the opening hole as driver/6 iron led to a four foot birdie putt. Hagen got creative at the par five fourth. Spraying his drive way right, he elected to play up the fifth fairway, placing a 7-iron to a spot where he had a good look at the green with not too many of the eleven traps which front the green from about a hundred yards in in his way. Still, Hagen managed to pull his 7-iron approach into the left greenside bunker but managed to get up and down, saving his par with a nine foot putt. Two holes later, at the 205 yard sixth, Hagen hit his mashie niblick (a 7-iron to the rest of us) to three feet and his second birdie of the day. Hagen has his troubles off the tee, missing on eight of fourteen drives. But his two birdies on the back nine came after Hagen couldn’t find the fairway, eventually making a 19-footer for birdie at twelve and hitting out of the rough to five feet at fourteen. Unfortunately, Hagen saved his worst for last. Missing short with his approach on eighteen, his chip came up well short and it took him two putts from seventeen feet for his lone bogey of the day.
The next man to get a shot
at Dow Finsterwald
ROUNDING OUT THE TOP TEN:
Hagen has company at -3 as Retief Goosen and Willie Campbell both shot even par 70. In a three-way tie for fifth at 2-under are Tony Lema (68 today, including a spectacular 5-iron at the 224 yard sixteenth which rolled to a stop one foot from the hole) and Ralph Guldahl and Byron Nelson (both with 70). And, in a three-way tie for eighth and the last three guys under par at -1 are Bobby Locke (68 and who went 3-under for his first four holes including approaches at one and two to within two feet), Chick Harbert (69) and Scott Verplank (70).
SHOT OF THE DAY:
Freddy Haas at fourteen. After hitting a 3-metal which skirted the fairway bunkers on the right but managed to stay in the short grass, Haas holed out a three-quarter pitching wedge from 113. Though Haas did have three birdies to go along with that eagle, he also had two bogeys and three doubles and finished with a 73. But, after 75 yesterday, Haas is well out of it at +8.
WELL, IT STARTED OUT GOOD:
Old Tom Morris, very much in contention at 3-under after yesterday’s 66, birdied three in a row from the second through the fourth holes, thanks mostly to his flat blade, as he dropped birdie putts of 7, 14 and 32 feet. OK, that was a nice recovery after an opening hole bogey. Sitting at 2-under after four, Morris went 6-over the rest of the way, including a double bogey disaster at twelve when he landed in not one, not two, but three bunkers, and finished with a 74. That dropped Old Tom into a tie for thirteenth, five shots back.