McDowell tops World Challenge
Thousand Oaks, California - Northern Ireland's Graeme McDowell fired a bogey free four-under par 68 on Saturday to take a two-shot lead over Keegan Bradley going into the final round of the World Challenge.
McDowell had a 54-hole total of 13-under 203 at Sherwood Country Club and though his three-stroke overnight lead slipped a notch, he is still well-placed to capture his first victory since he won this tournament in 2010.
That victory capped an outstanding season for McDowell, in which he won the US Open up the Pacific coast at Pebble Beach and delivered the clinching point in Europe's Ryder Cup win.
This year a victory in the unofficial event hosted by Tiger Woods would give a sweet taste to a mixed season in which he settled for a tie for second at the US Open, and a tie for fifth at the British Open.
"It would be nice to kind of get the reward, because I feel like I've been playing pretty solidly for a couple of months and got nothing from it," said the player, who struggled in this year's Ryder Cup, again won by Europe.
On Sunday, McDowell will play alongside 2011 PGA Championship winner Bradley, who had six birdies in his five-under 67 and was alone in second place on 205.
Three shots further back was tournament host Woods, who carded his second straight 69 and Bo Van Pelt, who hit a 70 for 208.
With the rain-softened Sherwood layout again playing long, McDowell drained lengthy birdie putts at the second and fourth holes, adding birdies at the ninth and 11th before parring his way in.
"Bogey-free is always nice on any golf course," McDowell said. "It would have been nice to pick a few more up on the way in I guess, finishing with seven straight pars when there are some chances out there.
"But two shots ahead going into Sunday, I'll take that any week, anywhere, any time. It's right where you need to be."
Woods, who chipped in for birdie at the first and added three birdies in the last five holes to stay in touch, said the soggy conditions made for hard play, even with players allowed to lift, clean and place the ball in the fairway.
"It was wet out there," Woods said. "It was a little sloppy early and overall I thought it was tough to get the ball close today.
"The greens were so soft, they're spinning so much, and then on top of that they didn't cut the fairways. Even though we had ball in hand, a couple times we caught a couple of little fliers from the fairway."
Bradley, the first player to win a major title using a long putter with the tip of its handle resting against his midriff, felt more fallout from this week's announcement by global golf authorities that they propose to ban the practice in 2016.
"I had some guy here call me a cheater on the last hole, which was no fun," he said.
Bradley, who said this week he believes golf's rules-makers have put an "X" on the back of all players currently using belly putters, said he didn't respond to the heckler.
"I've got to try to look at it as motivation to help me try to win this tournament," said the American, who added that he heard "way more positives than negatives" from the local fans.
McDowell, himself no fan of the long putters, said he thought the announcement of the proposed rule change meant "a slight inevitability" to such comments in coming years, as the practice of "anchoring" a putter to the body remains legal but suspect.
"I'm sure Keegan can handle it," McDowell said. "Let's be honest, with a long putter, if it was that easy, everybody would be using them."
Third-round scores on Saturday in the $4m World Challenge golf tournament (USA unless noted, par-72):
203 - Graeme McDowell (NIR) 69-66-68
205 - Keegan Bradley 69-69-67
208 - Tiger Woods 70-69-69, Bo Van Pelt 70-68-70
209 - Jim Furyk 69-69-71
210 - Rickie Fowler 73-67-70
211 - Nick Watney 67-73-71
212 - Bubba Watson 71-74-67, Steve Stricker 73-71-68, Webb Simpson 70-73-69
214 - Zach Johnson 74-70-70, Dustin Johnson 74-68-72, Matt Kuchar 73-69-72
215 - Hunter Mahan 71-73-71
216 - Ian Poulter (ENG) 73-72-71, Brandt Snedeker 75-68-73, Jason Dufner 73-68-75
218 - Jason Day (AUS) 71-75-72