Saturday's golf: McIlroy, Scott, Kuchar share lead at Riviera; Woods falters
Los Angeles — Put together the best field of the year on a course players regard as one of the ultimate tests, and the result is a final round at Riviera loaded with possibilities.
Rory McIlroy kept patient through some missed opportunities by making enough birdies for a 3-under 68. Adam Scott, motivated to get a victory at Riviera that the PGA Tour counts, rolled in a 10-foot birdie putt on the final hole Saturday for a 67. Matt Kuchar recovered from three bogeys in a four-hole stretch to make one last birdie for a 70.
They were tied for the lead at the Genesis Invitational.
Within striking distance was Dustin Johnson, who overwhelmed Riviera in 2017 for a five-shot victory that could have been more, finished birdie-eagle-par for a 67 and was two shots behind.
Sixteen players were separated by four shots with 18 holes to play.
“I think you just have to worry about yourself, concentrate on what you’re doing, do it well, set yourself a target, don’t think about anyone else,” McIlroy said. “And you know, if that’s good enough at the end of the day, then great. If not, then someone just played better than you and hats off to them.”
McIlroy returned to No. 1 in the world this week and is playing as though he plans to stay there. This was his 17th time in his last 18 rounds on the PGA Tour that he shot in the 60s dating to his victory in the Tour Championship.
Kuchar has led since a 64 in the opening round, and now he shares it with McIlroy and Scott, two players who have won majors and reached No. 1 in the world.
They were at 10-under 203.
Brian Stuard (Jackson) shot 2 under and is at 4 under for the tournament, tied for 22nd.
Missing from the mix was Tiger Woods, who went the other direction, and quickly. He shot 41 on the back nine and held it steady from there for a 76 to wind up 15 shots behind.
“Well, that was a lot of shots … and it was a long day,” Woods said.
Scott won at Riviera in 2005 and has the trophy to show for it, just not a spot in the PGA Tour record book. The tournament was shortened to 36 holes by rain, and it was deemed unofficial.
This is his first competition in some two months, dating to his victory in the Australian PGA Championship three days before Christmas.
“I almost feel like I know what I’m doing after 20 years of having a season and having a break and coming back out,” Scott said. “I know what this course kind of demands of you. It’s not necessarily the easiest course to show up, but I was in a good place finishing last year, too, so I think I managed that well.”
Harold Varner III birdied his last two holes for a 69 and was one shot behind, along with Russell Henley (68). Dustin Johnson, who won at Riviera three years ago, had only two pars over his final 12 holes. That stretch also featured five birdies and an eagle for a 67. He was two shots behind, along with Joel Dahmen (66).
Still in the mix was Hideki Matsuyama, who bogeyed his last hole Friday and was the last player to make the cut. Matsuyama played in the final group off the back nine, away from all the attention, and posted a 64. He was four shots behind and very much in the picture.
Woods will have to wait another year to win at Riviera, another week to seek his record 83rd victory on the PGA Tour. In a spot where he couldn’t afford to drop shots, he made more mistakes than he had all week, especially on the greens.
He four-putted from 18 feet on No. 13, his second four-putt in as many tournaments this year and the first times since 1998 that Woods had multiple tournaments with a four-putt. He three-putted the 17th for par. He finished with a three-putt bogey from about 12 feet on the 18th.
It added up to a 76, leaving him at the bottom of the pack. It was his highest score since he opened with an 81 at Royal Portrush in the British Open last summer, and the first time since the PGA Championship in May that Woods had consecutive rounds over par.
“I hit the ball quite a few times, especially on the greens,” Woods said. “I didn’t have a feel for it, I didn’t see my lines, I couldn’t feel my pace and I was just off. … Obviously, there wasn’t a whole lot I did right today, and figure it out tomorrow.”
Woods said he wasn’t ready for the Mexico Championship next week and was not sure when he would play next. The idea is to peak for the Masters, still about two months away.
Woods wasn’t alone in his struggles. Sung Kang missed a 2-foot putt during a stretch of three straight bogeys. Ryan Palmer took six shots to get out of a greenside bunker on No. 14 and made 9.
Stephen Leaney leads after Saturday’s second round at the Chubb Classic, and Fred Funk is two shots back as he attempts to become the oldest competitor to win a PGA Tour Champions event at Naples .
Leaney made an eagle on the 17th hole and has posted consecutive rounds of 65, putting him one shot ahead of Bernhard Langer and two clear of Funk, Chris DiMarco and Fred Couples.
“I played well the last two days,” Leaney said. “I have been driving it great, hitting a lot of very good iron shots. And suddenly started to make some putts, which I didn’t really do last year. So just try to keep it going tomorrow.”
Leaney’s 130-shot total is his best 36-hole score at a PGA-sanctioned competition. His last pro win was at the 2017 Western Australian Open, and his only appearance in a Sunday final group on the PGA Tour was at the 2003 U.S. Open, when he started three shots behind eventual champion Jim Furyk.
“I mean, I have won over 16, 17 times in the world,” Leaney said. “I mean, I have won tournaments before. No problem in this position. So it’s all about controlling yourself. I can’t control what anyone else does.”
At 63 years, eight months and two days old, Funk would be the oldest winner ever on the tour, surpassing Scott Hoch at 63 years, five months and four days.
“That’s unbelievable,” Funk said. “That would be awesome. Although that will be broken once Bernie gets to be 63, so I might as well get it.”
Funk’s two-round total of 132 is his best since the 2017 Regions Tradition, and that was also the last time he started the final round of an event in the top three. He finished tied for fourth.
He hasn’t won a PGA Tour Champions event since the 2014 Bass Pro Shops Legends of Golf with partner Jeff Sluman. He’s made 145 individual starts since his last solo victory at the 2012 Greater Hickory Classic.
Funk has dealt with back and nerve pain recently and said he had to push through the latter Saturday.
“My back is overall a lot better,” he said. “I usually don’t have the nerve pain. Today that nerve pain fired up again on 13, for some reason, going right down my hip and into my leg. And killing me right now. But it’s been a lot better. It’s been a lot more functional.
“When I had that nerve pain the last two years, it completely shut me down. And I’m scared to death of it, because I know what it means if it pops back up. So I don’t want it to come back. I can play with pain, I can’t play with that nerve pain.”
Langer is a three-time winner at the Chubb Classic, last in 2016. He shot 5-under 66 in the second round, sending him into Sunday among the top-five at this tournament for the 10th time in 12 starts.
A year after posting a course-record 9-under 62 in the second round at the Chubb Classic, Kevin Sutherland shot a bogey-free 63 and jumped into a tie for sixth place.
Tom Gillis (Lake Orion) shot 1 over and is tied for 53rd.
Seven-time major champion Inbee Park hasn’t won an LPGA tournament in nearly two years, but her 19 tour victories include trophies at Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand and Malaysia at Adelaide, Australia.
She might well be adding Australia soon to that total in the Asia-Pacific region.
Park took a three-stroke lead at the Women’s Australian Open on Saturday after a 5-under 68, including a 40-foot birdie putt on the 18th at Royal Adelaide. She had a 54-hole total of 15-under 204.
Nineteen-year-old Ayean Cho will play in the final group with her fellow South Korean. Cho shot 69 on Saturday and was alone in second. American Marina Alex was in third at 11-under after a 70, four strokes behind.
“I had similar putts yesterday which didn’t go in, but they did today,” Park said. “I will play under a lot of pressure tomorrow, but it should be a fun day, I love the golf course. I will love the atmosphere.”
“It has been a while since I played in Australia, My caddie and physio are Australians, so I hope to be partying with them tomorrow.”
Park last won on the LPGA Tour at the Bank of Hope Founders Cup in mid-March 2018. That will be the next tournament stop on the 2020 tour – in Phoenix from March 19-22 – following the cancellation of tournaments in Thailand (where Park won in 2013), in Singapore (where Park won the HSBC Women’s Champions in 2015 and 2017) and in China.
Those tournaments were cut from the schedule due to a viral outbreak that began in China that has infected more than 67,000 people globally. The World Health Organization has named the illness COVID-19, referring to its origin late last year and the coronavirus that causes it.