Think of elements that would make you frown during a round of golf.
Frosty temperatures. Gusting winds. Unrelenting rain. A course so water-logged it’s mindful of a sponge rimmed with thick, drenched, punishing rough.
Now imagine that quartet of misery as a collective and you have Saturday’s third round of the Wells Fargo Championship at TPC Potomac at Avenel Farm, north of the nation’s capital.
“Just get around, literally, just any way possible,” Matthew Fitzpatrick said about his game-plan for Saturday. He did OK with a 71.
Most others weren’t so fortunate on a day the thermometer never reached 50 and the winds made it feel cooler. As well, the clouds kept spitting rain throughout the day, adding to the 3 inches of H2O that fell on the course the past two days.
Which, of course, kept TPC Potomac soaked, making for some interesting lies despite players being allowed to lift, clean and place.
Max Homa at the ninth hole during the third round of the Wells Fargo Championship golf tournament. Mandatory Credit: Mitch Stringer-USA TODAY Sports
“It feels like I’ve just gone 12 rounds in a pro boxing match,” said Anirban Lahiri, who shot 70. “You’re fighting everything, you’re fighting your body, the elements, the water, the cold, the conditions. It’s tough work and you just have to grit your teeth and kind of grind it out.”
After a dry Thursday when the field averaged 69.58 strokes, the players posted averages of 72.57 on rainy Friday and 73.67 on Saturday; that was the highest average relative to par in a non-major since the final round of the 2020 Memorial.
In the third round, only four of the 65 players broke par, including three-time Wells Fargo winner and defending champion Rory McIlroy, who moved from a tie for 50th to a tie for sixth with a 68.
The leader, however, is Keegan Bradley, who somehow shot 3-under-par 67 to grab the 54-hole lead. The 2011 PGA Championship winner is looking for his first win since the 2018 BMW Championship, which finished on Monday because of storms throughout the week. Bradley made just two bogeys.
“When the conditions get like this, I find a sense of calm just because I’m sort of worried about other things, keeping my clubs dry and my bag dry. Sort of keeps me in the present. I did that today and I just had a great time with my caddie Scotty (Vail). We’re a good team and we did a lot of good things today,” Bradley said. “My coach, Darren May, and my caddie, Scotty, are in my ear that these sort of conditions are good for me. When you look at the weather, the extended weather, as a player you get sort of stressed when you see this even though everyone’s playing in it, it’s silly. But they were sort of in my ear saying this is what you want, you want it to be windy and tough. I’m starting to believe them.”
Bradley is at 8 under.
Max Homa, the 2019 Wells Fargo winner who had the lead earlier in the day, shot 71 and is at 6 under. At 4 under are Lahiri and James Hahn, the 2016 Wells Fargo winner; Hahn shot 72. At 3 under is Fitzpatrick. A large collection is at 2 under, including McIlroy, Cameron Young (69) and Matthew Wolff (70).
“Six shots is still six shots,” McIlroy said. “It depends what the weather’s like tomorrow. I’d like it to be pretty tough. I know it’s probably not going to be as wet. It’s going to be quite cold. I don’t know what the wind’s going to be like. I can’t imagine tomorrow being any tougher than today was.
“You can’t really chase much around here because it’s a tough golf course, but like six shots is still a long way back.”
The forecast is for a rainless day. But the temps will still not reach 50.
Jason Day walks onto the ninth hole green during the third round of the Wells Fargo Championship golf tournament. Mandatory Credit: Mitch Stringer-USA TODAY Sports
It certainly wasn’t Jason Day’s day in the third round. The 2015 PGA Championship victor, looking for his first win since the 2018 Wells Fargo Championship, looked stellar through 36 holes and led by three shots at 10 under.
But he hit tee shots into water hazards on consecutive holes early in his third round, hit his approach on the par-5 10th into a swamp, made just one birdie and shot 79.