Jersey City, NJ- Saturday at a PGA Tour event is often referred to as Moving Day. Half the field is out and the story is somewhat clearer heading into the weekend’s proceedings. But there’s still 36 holes left to play and plenty of time for the storylines to change. The Third Round of the Northern Trust on Saturday was a reminder of all the moves that can happen at a golf tournament, both good and bad.
The intrigue started early in the day when Brandt Snedeker teed off at 10:25 AM. He trailed the lead by eight strokes and appeared as an afterthought. The 38 year old Nashville born and bred veteran and holder of the best round in Tournament history (61 on a 71 par Plainfield CC course in 2011’s round three) was up to the task.
He sandwiched a bogey on 7 between eagles on two of the longest holes on the course. Snedeker’s approach on the 538 yard 6th hole landed 12’2” from the pin and his approach on the 611 yard 8th (course’s longest) landed 4’2” from the pin. He drilled both eagle putts and landed additional birdies on 2 and 3. He added three more birdies on the back to record the second lowest round of the tournament and record a -12 through 54 rounds. He gained 4.242 strokes on the greens, quadrupling the week’s average of 1.006.
“I kind of continued the way I played the first two days,” said Snedeker. I just didn’t make any putts the first two days. I’m not making two Eagles in a round very often. Nice to go out and post a low one.”
Snedeker recorded the best round, but two players moved above him in the standings. Abraham Ancer recorded three of his five birdies consecutively on the back nine to briefly take the lead. But he stumbled on 16 with a whiffed short par putt and pared out the final two holes to end at -13.
Ancer sits only one shot behind the tournament’s most consistent player, Patrick Reed. Saying Reed would be a FedEx Cup contender earlier this season would’ve be a surprise. The 29 year old San Antonio native missed three cuts in seven tournaments ending with a miss at the PGA Championship at Bethpage Black. Reed’s response? A full shut down.
“Actually shut down the game for ten days and got my body and my mind right. Just got back up 100 percent ready to go and at that point I was able to sit down, clearly think and talk through with my team what we’re doing, what’s good, what’s not, what we need to fix. From that point, we had a very clear picture and path to move on to.”
He also made an equipment change. “Last week on Sunday, i changed golf balls to a new golf ball that’s a little softer. I went to a 17 Pro V.”
Reed had been playing solid golf since restarting his system. He recorded a pair of top-10 finishes at the bRocket Mortgage Classic and The Open Championship. His consistency carried into his first two rounds and showed again on Saturday.
Reed tallied five birdies and no bogeys on both Thursday and Friday. Saturday saw five more birdies and the first bogey of his round on 15. The Augusta University alum stabilized and reclaimed the lead with a birdie on 17. He ended with a -4 on the day and a tournament leading -14.
This is the seventh time Reed has held the 54 lead in a tournament. He’s won four of the six previous attempts to win in said situation. The last such time was at the 2018 Masters, which he won. A win would be Reed’s second Northern Trust Trophy. His first came in 2016 at Bethpage Black.
Reed, Ancer, and Snedeker’s climbs were partly helped by some downward movement. 36 hole leader Dustin Johnson slumped. He pared the first eight holes and slipped on 9. A drive out of bounds cost a stroke for his first bogey in 25 holes. The back nine was a mess. Johnson had a 28% driving efficiency and recorded four bogeys. Only a pair of birdies limited the damage and kept Johnson at +3 for the day.
Johnson’s playing partner, Jordan Spieth, had the same score. Spieth struggled on the green and fell from -11 to -8.
18 hole leader Troy Merritt also underwhelmed with his first plus round of the tournament. He dropped from -10 to -9.
Other players moving up included Jon Rahm who posted a -2 to sit at -12, just two shots back of the lead, Harold Varner III, who posted a -3 to move to -11, and Danny Willett, who posted a -5 for a tournament total of -11.
Saturday is referred to as Moving Day and not Trophy Day for good reason.
Notable Sunday Tee Times:
- Abraham Ancer (-13) and Patrick Reed (-14): 2pm ET
- Jon Rahm and Brandt Snedeker (-12): 1:50pm ET
- Brooks Koepka (1st place in FedEx Cup Standings): 11:10am ET