Lee Trevino seized the lead from Jack Nicklaus by holing out a 45-yd wedge shot on No. 5. A hole later, “The Golf Pro from the Moon,” Kermit Zarley struck the narrow par 5 fifth green in two, then two-putted from 30 feet to gain a share of the lead.
Jack Nicklaus has struggled all round, tending to over-hit greens and hitting extremely drives deep into trouble off the fairways. His caddy will probably advise him to take one club less and maybe leave the driver in the bag. Fellow competitor, Bruce Crampton, doesn’t hit anywhere near as long but has managed to avoid the hazards or not get in as deep when missing the fairway. The Aussie’s otherwise quiet round has been good enough to hold third place alone, one shot back and one ahead of the Golden Bear.
Both Johnny Miller and Arnold Palmer, playing in the lead group have each had one disastrous hole in otherwise average rounds that have knocked them further down the leaderboard.
A moderate wind has been playing havoc with the field. Top pros who average 260 yards off the tee have been barely hitting 225 on some uphill holes. It is literally an uphill struggle against the wind. “Kentucky windage,” a marksmanship term used for left-right target misses has been taken to an extreme. Some drives have pushed as much as 50 yards left or right of targeted landing areas. Yet even aiming into the wind has not always been a reliable counter method as gusts will suddenly stop, letting the shot go unimpeded 20 yards or more into the rough.
A round of 72 under these circumstances will be a notable accomplishment and a potential winning score for the top four. Arney and Miller have their work cut out for them but will have to hope for some bad luck to bring the leaders down to the pack in addition to making up ground on their own.
Birdie opportunities have been as rare as the western snowy plover, which occasionally passes through the region. When players have managed to hit a green in regulation, they are typically having birdie putts ranging from 15-25 feet. The lead group is approaching the turn but the struggles will likely continue on the back nine.
“Cast Your Fate to the Wind” is a 1963 Grammy-winning jazz composition by pianist Vince Guaraldi. Today, it serves as the perfect theme for the final round.
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This tournament update was sponsored by Front 9 Brewing, “Before the 19th Hole,” and by Bruce’s 19th Hole Sports Bar & Grill, “Cocktails & Cuisine since 2011.”