Saturday's golf: Bradley goes low in mud again, leads Wells Fargo by 2

Associated Press

Potomac, Md. — Keegan Bradley did nothing special on the only easy scoring day this week at the Wells Fargo Championship, opening with an even-par 70 that left him around the cut line.

Since the conditions got tougher, Bradley has been the best player at TPC Potomac at Avenel Farm.

Keegan Bradley watches between shots on the seventh green during the third round of the Wells Fargo Championship golf tournament, Saturday, May 7, 2022, at TPC Potomac at Avenel Farm golf club in Potomac, Md.

Bradley shot the lowest score for the second straight day Saturday, a 3-under 67 that gave him a three-day total of 8-under 202 and a two-shot lead over Max Homa in British Open weather on a U.S. Open-style course.

About 2 inches of rain has fallen since Friday morning, yet the low-lying course near the Potomac River has held up well enough to avoid any delays in play. Temperatures dropped into the low 40s Fahrenheit on Saturday.

Bradley was one of four players to shoot in the 60s. The scoring average was 73.7, the highest relative to par on the PGA Tour since the final round of the 2020 U.S. Open at Winged Foot.

Although he has only one win in the past nine years, the 35-year-old Bradley has been solid recently, with top-10 finishes in three of his last five events, including fifth at the Players Championship during another week of bad weather.

The eye-popping number for a player whose putter has held him back: Bradley ranks second in the field this week in putting by the PGA Tour's “strokes gained” metric. His key makes on Saturday: 14 feet for birdie on the par-3 ninth hole, 21 feet for birdie on the tough par-4 11th, 9 feet for birdie on the 16th and, finally, 8 feet to save par after going bunker-to-bunker on the closing hole.

A win by Bradley would move him into the top 60 in the world, making him exempt for the U.S. Open at The Country Club in Brookline, Massachusetts.

Jason Day's retooled swing couldn't hold up for a third straight day. The leader after 18 and 36 holes, Day began struggling with his driver before it spilled over to the rest of the bag. He found the same pond on consecutive holes — a driver that never crossed dry land on the par-4 fourth, leading to triple bogey, and a 3-wood that hooked violently on the fifth.

Day appeared to lose his grip on the club when he hit another hook into a water hazard with his second shot on the par-5 10th, even though he had half a dozen gloves hanging from the ribs of his umbrella. He shot 79 to fall seven shots off the lead.

Homa shot a steady 71 while playing partners Day and Luke List struggled, finding fairways and hitting conservative approach shots for routine pars. He went from trailing Day by two to leading by two in a span of two holes that he played in even par. But consecutive bogeys on the back nine allowed Bradley to pass him.

The day's second-best score belonged to Rory McIlroy, who made the cut on the number and played on the opposite side of the course from the leaders. The highest-ranked player in the field at No. 7, McIlroy bogeyed his first two holes, made four birdies before the turn and closed with nine straight pars for a 68 that moved him into a tie for sixth at 2 under.

Anirban Lahiri shot 70 and was four shots back alongside James Hahn (72), a former champion of this event at its regular home, Quail Hollow, which is taking this year off because it's hosting the Presidents Cup in September. Matt Fitzpatrick was 3 under after a 71.

PGA Champions

Duluth, Ga. — David Toms flipped the script Saturday at the Mitsubishi Electric Classic with a four-shot swing on the 15th hole and closed with pars for a 1-under 71 that gave him a two-shot lead over Ken Duke going into the final round on the PGA Tour Champions.

Toms was in danger of falling two shots behind when his long birdie putt on the 14th went past the hole and nearly off the green. He made the 12-footer for par, and then seized on the big mess Duke made out of the next hole.

Duke's 20-foot birdie putt from above the hole had too much pace and trickled — and trickled some more — until it picked up steam and rolled some 35 yards down the fairway. His wedge was too weak and rolled off into a bunker, and he made triple bogey.

Toms rolled in his birdie putt and went from one behind to a three-shot lead.

Duke managed a birdie on the par-5 closing hole at the TPC Sugarloaf to salvage a 73 and kept him in the game. So many others are now in the mix.

Toms was at 8-under 136.

Ernie Els finished with three birdies over his last five holes on the front nine for a 68. He was part of the group four shots behind at 4-under 140 that included Jay Haas (69), Fred Couples (70) and Monday qualifier Mark Walker, who birdied the final hole for a 72.

Steve Flesch (73) also was part of the group at 140. He played in the final group with Toms and Duke and was lurking until he hit a fat wedge on the 17th that didn't reach the bunker, pitched on and missed an 8-foot par putt. He had to settle for par on the closing hole.

Toms will be going for his third PGA Tour Champions victory. Among his 13 wins on the PGA Tour was the 2001 PGA Championship across the suburbs at Atlanta Athletic Club.

Conditions were far more severe than the opening round, which featured a rain delay. The wind was blustery and temperatures dropped, putting a premium on par.

That didn't stop two-time U.S. Open champion Retief Goosen, who was 7 under on his round through 15 holes until closing on the front nine with two straight bogeys. His 67 matched the low round of the day, and he was at 3-under 141, five shots behind.

Also five back was Steve Stricker, in his second tournament since his return from a six-month layoff due to an illness that hospitalized him late last year; and Miguel Angel Jimenez.

Duke did well to keep bogeys off his card. His long birdie putt on the 14th hit the pin and went over the lip. And then it all went wrong on the 15th.

Even so, he was only two behind and will be in the final group as he goes for his first PGA Tour Champions title.