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Saturday's golf: Fleetwood leads going into final round of Honda Classic

Associated Press

Palm Beach Gardens, Fla. – Tommy Fleetwood has won in Scotland, England, the United Arab Emirates, France, South Africa, even Kazakhstan.

Victory in the U.S. hasn’t happened yet.

The Englishman is in position to change that Sunday.

Tommy Fleetwood hits from the second tee.

Fleetwood birdied four of his final six holes on the way to a 3-under 67 in the third round of The Honda Classic on Saturday, moving to 5 under for the week and one shot ahead of Brendan Steele at PGA National. Fleetwood, ranked No. 12 in the world, has been close to getting that elusive win on U.S. soil with two runner-up finishes.

“If you’re going to win around here, you’ve proven yourself as an all-around golfer,” Fleetwood said. “Realistically, yeah, it probably is another step in my career. I’m not going to lie and say, ‘Ah, I don’t really mind about winning in America.’ Of course I do. I want to win everywhere I play and the PGA Tour is for sure one of those places where I haven’t done it yet.”

Brian Stuard (Jackson) shot a 77 and is in 67th place, 14 shots off the lead.

Steele shot 71. He was alone on the lead through 36 holes at 5 under, birdied two of his first three on Saturday to get to 7 under and then made four bogeys in an eight-hole span.

But he survived, which was the order of the day for the leaders.

“It feels like a major championship toughness-wise,” said Daniel Berger, who is three shots back.

Fleetwood rolled in a birdie from nearly 50 feet on the par-3 17th to highlight his big finish. But he thought his two most important shots on Saturday were putts that dropped on the 10th and 15th holes.

And both were for bogey.

Let that speak for how challenging PGA National was – yet again. Of the 69 players who made the cut, only 11 broke par on Saturday. Fleetwood’s 67 was the second-best round of the day; Mackenzie Hughes, who made the cut on the number Friday, shot a 4-under 66 on Saturday and went from tied for 59th to start the day to tied for eighth with 18 holes left.

Fleetwood’s score of 5 under is the highest by any leader through 54 holes since the Honda moved to PGA National.

“It’s just a strong test of your all-around game,” Fleetwood said.

Luke Donald birdied the last to finish a 71 and get to 3 under for the week, two shots off the lead. Lee Westwood (71) was tied with Donald going into the final round, surviving an up-and-down day where he birdied two of his first three holes – and then made just one more in the last 15 holes.

“I didn’t have my A game today,” Westwood said. “But, ground it out and didn’t do too much damage. I don’t feel like two shots is much around this golf course.”

True, but the Honda – at least the current incarnation of it – is not exactly known for comeback victories.

Since the tournament moved to PGA National, 12 of the 13 winners have been either first or second after 54 holes. And in terms of deficits overcome, the biggest has been three shots – Padraig Harrington rallied after being three back of Ian Poulter in 2015, and Ernie Els was three shots behind Donald, Matt Jones and Mark Calcavecchia in 2008 before prevailing.

Berger (69), Charl Schwartzel (70) and Sungjae Im (70) were tied for fifth at 2 under, three back of Fleetwood.

There was a five-way tie for the lead – Schwartzel, Steele, Im, Donald and Fleetwood – on the back side for a brief spell Saturday at 4 under.

It didn’t last long as all five dropped a shot within a span of about 15 minutes, a span in which Schwartzel got a reminder of how fast things can change at PGA National.

He put his tee ball in the bunker on the par-4 16th, then saw his second shot hit the lip of the sand and plummet into the water to set up a double bogey.

“I thought I was really good today out there,” Schwartzel said. “I played well, made a stupid decision on 16, but hit good shots after that and kept going. It’s a tough golf course.”

Champions

Brett Quigley shot a 5-under 68 at Tucson, Arizona, in the Cologuard Classic to open a three-stroke lead in his bid to win for the second time in his first four PGA Tour Champions starts.

Fred Couples was second after a 66. The 60-year-old Hall of Famer won the last of his 13 senior titles in 2017.

The 50-year-old Quigley won a month ago in Morocco in his second Champions start and tied for ninth two weeks ago in Florida in the Chubb Classic. He made his senior debut in September in Calgary, Alberta, tying for 64th in the Shaw Charity Classic.

Quigley, the nephew of 11-time PGA Tour Champions winner Dana Quigley, had five runner-up finishes in 408 starts on the PGA Tour, earning more than $11 million.

A stroke ahead entering the day after an opening 64, Quigley birdied three of the first five holes in the second round on Tucson National’s Catalina Course. He finished with six birdies and a bogey to reach 14-under 132.

Couples birdied five of the first six holes. He played the back nine in 2 under with four birdies and two bogeys.

Miguel Angel Jimenez (66) and Rod Pampling (68) were 11 under. Bernhard Langer (68) and Robert Karlsson (71) followed at 10 under.

Pampling is making his fifth senior start. The Australian eagled the par-5 12th.

Steve Stricker, the 2018 winner for the first of his five senior victories, had 71 a tie fall into a tie for 10th at 8 under. Defending champion Mark O’Meara (69) and John Daly (71) also were 8 under.

Ernie Els was tied for 36th at 3 under after a 70 in his second senior start. He lost a playoff to Jimenez in January in his debut in the season-opening event in Hawaii.

Hall of Fame pitcher John Smoltz shot his second straight 74. He was tied for 65th in the 78-man field.

Europe

Joost Luiten was part of a six-way tie for the lead after the third round of the Oman Open at Muscat as the Dutch golfer looks to win the European Tour event for the second time in three years.

Luiten, the champion of the inaugural edition of the tournament in 2018, shot a bogey-free 5-under 67 and was on 11 under overall alongside Brandon Stone of South Africa (67), Callum Shinkwin of England (66), Rasmus Højgaard of Denmark (70) and Finnish players Sami Valimaki (64) and Mikko Korhonen (65).

“It always helps when you have won the tournament before but I think winning in general helps you go through the motions and the feeling of winning a tournament,” said the No. 102-ranked Luiten.

“I’m just going to enjoy it. You’ve got to enjoy the tension that comes with trying to win. I love it here and feel comfortable.”

Italian player Guido Migliozzi was alone one stroke back at 10 under after a round of 68.