Bubba Watson leading American charge to fringes of medal contention

Ryan Ballengee
Devil Ball Golf
<a class="link rapid-noclick-resp" href="/pga/players/4713/" data-ylk="slk:Bubba Watson">Bubba Watson</a> posing in the third round of the 2016 men’s Olympic golf tournament. (Getty Images)
Bubba Watson posing in the third round of the 2016 men’s Olympic golf tournament. (Getty Images)

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Here come the Americans.

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The four Yankees — Bubba Watson, Matt Kuchar, Rickie Fowler and Patrick Reed — got off to a sluggish start during the first 36 holes of the 2016 men’s Olympic golf tournament in Rio. However, all but Reed climbed into the fringes of metal contention on Saturday at the Olympic Golf Course.

Watson leads the way on the leaderboard, carding a second consecutive 4-under 67 to get to 6-under 207, six shots behind leader Justin Rose but just three shots away from the bronze medal and third place Marcus Fraser of Australia. In a tie for fourth place, Watson said ahead of the tournament that his strategy would be to play for a medal, whatever it took.

“It would be better to have bronze than nothing,” Watson said Tuesday. “It’s situational, you know what I’m saying.”

A shot behind Watson is Matt Kuchar, who is a part of a five-way tie for seventh place. Kuchar, who was a late addition to the American contingent after Dustin Johnson and Jordan Spieth chose not to play in this event, has hovered around par each of the first three days. A second 69 in three rounds has him near the medal stand.

The shock and round of the day, however, came from Rickie Fowler, who entered the day alone in 50th place and 14 shots behind the 36-hole leader Fraser. Fowler came out hot, reaching 7 under par through 10 holes. After a pair of bogeys on the toughest holes on the course, Fowler closed with birdies on the 17th and 18th holes to card 64, the second-best round of the tournament behind Fraser’s opening 63. At 3-under total, Fowler spoke afterward of a potential “back-door medal,” finding his way to a bronze after starting sluggishly with 75 on Thursday.

“I definitely gave me a chance going into tomorrow to potentially get myself on the podium,” he said.

The only laggard among the four Americans, as well the only one not able to medal on Sunday, is Reed. At 1-over 214, Reed is tied for 36th place and 10 shots out of medal position.

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