The stage is set for high drama at TPC Harding Park
Through three days of action at TPC Harding Park, the 2020 PGA Championship has been everything golf fans could have asked for and a little bit more.
Lake Merced and the thick California cypress trees have served as the perfect backdrop for the roller-coaster ride that has ensued at the year’s first major, setting up what is sure to be a memorable final round on Sunday by the Bay.
Dustin Johnson goes to bed with the 54-hole lead, sitting at 9-under-par after firing a back-nine 31 to take the lead by one over Cameron Champ and Scottie Scheffler.
Two-time defending champion Brooks Koepka survived three consecutive back-nine bogeys to get into the clubhouse at 7-under-par. A chance at history still very much in his sights.
“I mean, I like my chances,” Koepka said after his round. “When I’ve been in this position before, I've capitalized. I don't know, [Johnson’s] only won one. I'm playing good. I don't know, we’ll see.”
Paul Casey and 23-year-old star Collin Morikawa also sit at 7-under, while Tommy Fleetwood, Jason Day, Justin Rose, Bryson DeChambeau, Tony Finau and Daniel Berger all sit three shots back at 6-under-par.
The last 14 major winners were all within three shots of the lead entering Sunday, meaning the Wanamaker Trophy likely will be claimed by one of those 12 golfers.
“You know someone is going to play well out of the chasing pack,” Rose said after shooting an even-par 70. “So, you always look at the leaders, and if they go ahead and they play great, then they are going to be hard to catch, but anyone from the 6- and 7-under-par group, one or two of those guys are going to play well tomorrow, so that means they are going to get to 10, 11, 12, so that means that you have to go out and put a round of golf together. That's all I know.”
Every PGA Championship winner since 1990 has entered the final round in the top 10. Rose, the 2013 U.S. Open champion, has been a staple near the top of major leaderboards over the past year. The Englishman hopes Sunday is finally the time he’s the one to make the final-round move.
“You know, you have to keep knocking on the door,” Rose said. “Like I said, if you are knocking on the door, more often than not, you do find that round that you need on a Sunday. That's when the door opens. You never quite know when that's going to happen.”
Johnson has set the pace through three rounds. The 2016 U.S. Open champion has five top-10 finishes at the PGA Championship and will stand on the first tee at TPC Harding Park with a target on his back.
Koepka, Rose and Day, all past major champions, will be looking to get going early and apply pressure as Johnson tries to close things out.
But as much as their gaze might wander to the top of the leaderboard, the past major champions are aware that TPC Harding Park, which has chewed up some of the best players in the world this week, will be their greatest adversary.
“Yeah, I'm not focused on the lead at all,” Day said after shooting an even-par 70. “I'm just going to try and focus on myself tomorrow and add them up at the end of the day. I know that there's going to be leaderboards out there and I'll look what's going on, but I'm really going to just try and stay away from -- just really trying to focus on each and every shot, and if I can do that and walk off at the end of the day knowing that I gave everything, then I'll be happy. Hopefully it's enough to win.”
Morikawa, Fleetwood, DeChambeau, Finau, Casey, Berger, Scheffler and Champ all are looking to breakthrough on the major stage for the first time. In order to survive and thrive in the major championship pressure cooker, they’ll have to be able to withstand the ebbs and flows of a major Sunday.
Some have been here before and faltered when their moment came. Others are experiencing golf’s brightest lights for the first time.
“I've got to be ready for hole one, and then be physically and mentally prepared through 18,” said Morikawa, who is making just his second major start. “I'm sure there's going to be a lot of swings, a lot of lead changes, a lot of good play out there, a lot of bad play tomorrow. … But I can just control what I can do, so hopefully get off to a good start tomorrow.”
The stage is set for high drama at TPC Harding Park.
The final act for the year’s first major surely will be one to remember.