Potomac, MD — As he prepared to leave the scoring area Friday, Abraham Ancer was quick to sign autographs, even going as far as giving away both his hat and gloves.
One thing Ancer certainly did not give up were his chances of winning the Quicken Loans National which now is one step closer to becoming a reality after shooting a career-low 62 Saturday, tying Francesco Molinari for the lead following three rounds of play.
This is the first time both Ancer and Molinari have led or co-led after three rounds and the former’s round matches Kevin Streelman’s second-round effect for lowest for Quicken Loans National play at TPC Potomac at Avenel Farm.
“It was good today,” Ancer said. “I was very patient out there. It was a low number, but still a big-time golf course, so I just tried to hit as many fairways as I could and as many greens as I could, and I was rolling it nice so that obviously helped.”
Ancer also set a career-best with his 54-hole score of 197.
— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) June 30, 2018
TPC Potomac has played different since the practice rounds with balls rolling out more and golfers having to be less carry reliant.
Ancer played a group ahead of Tiger Woods and while that may have caused a problem for some, it only seemed to further his cause.
“The crowds were absolutely amazing, every hole was just packed,” said Ancer. “I just drew on that. I just heard all the roars. He was making a lot of putts I think on the front nine, the roars were crazy. I just like, I wanted to be one step ahead of him. So it worked out, I still played my game, I had fun and it was a good time.”
Ancer has shown good form this year, most recently sharing the first round Memorial Tournament lead, but came into the week having missed cuts in each of his last two starts.
A win for Ancer would be his first on the PGA TOUR, where his current highest finish is a tie for eighth at the 2018 Houston Open.
“I draw back to the Web.com, I had a win there,” Ancer said. “I mean, the guys out there are more than capable of playing out here, so I’m going to draw back on that and just play my game.”
Molinari, the second-highest ranked player in the field has accomplished a lot in his golfing career, but has yet to capture a PGA TOUR win, with his last worldwide victory coming at the 2018 BMW PGA Championship on the European Tour.
This also is the first time on the PGA TOUR that he has opened with three under-par rounds since the 2017 The Honda Classic in which he tied for 14th.
From a mindset perspective, not much will change for the 35-year-old, who could be the first Italian to win on the PGA TOUR since 1947 (Toney Penna).
“I am still doing my own thing, trying to do it as well as possible, one shot at a time,” said Molinari. “It’s boring and everyone says the same, but it’s the way golf works. I need to be mentally strong tomorrow whatever happens. If I start well or if I don’t start well, need to keep pushing and do my things and see after if I will have done enough.”
Molinari hit all 18 greens in regulation for the second time in his career Friday but for as much recognition as that receives, there is something else which he believes has been the key not just in the second round, but all tournament long.
“I think just the putting has been improving from the beginning of the season and I think that’s the biggest key in my game,” he said. “I’m usually pretty consistent with the long game, so the putting makes a big difference. Yeah, probably takes a little bit of pressure off the long game as well. If you know you have the chance of making a 20, 30-footer, you’re not so much under pressure to hit it close.”
— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) June 30, 2018
In the running
After three rounds, there are 13 players within six shots of the lead, perhaps most notably Tiger Woods who currently sits at 7-under par.
Woods fired a 3-under par 32 on his first nine, overcoming a bogey on the first hole by making four in a row, which is his longest string of birdies on TOUR since the 2015 Quicken Loans National. The noise was so deafening that it caused a caddie in a separate group to even offer a “wow” in amazing at the run.
Still, Woods let up on the back nine and finished with a 2-under par round of 68, which slightly improved his third-round scoring average of 68.50.
“I played better than what my score indicates,” he said. “I know I got off to a rough start bogeying 1 and very easily could have bogeyed 3, but then to get it to 3-under par for the day by the turn and I had some birdie opportunities on the back nine, didn’t make them and made a couple bogeys there, too, as well. So it was frustrating because I thought that 10 under would have been a good score for me to end up at for the day and I could have easily gotten that today on the back nine.”
Woods will have his work cut out having never won from six shots back. He did overcome a five-stroke deficit twice, most recently at the 2009 Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by Mastercard.
Still Woods has checked many bench marks off and the heat that hit the course Saturday was another checkpoint he powered through. The heat index reached 98 degrees Saturday.
“Playing under slower conditions, cold initially this year early, which I thought was going to be the most difficult,” said Woods. “I didn’t know how my back would react to playing, like in Tampa it was in the 40’s when we were warming up there and playing early. This week is just, you know, how fit am I. I know my legs are strong from all the legwork we’ve done, so I don’t have a problem with my strength and my endurance, it’s just a matter of keeping focus out here in this heat.”
• Signed glove
• Photo with @TigerWoods.
— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) June 30, 2018
Zac Blair finds himself two shots back and is tied for the highest birdie total in the field with 16 after entering the week 132nd on TOUR with his 3.42 birdies per round.
“Just kind of got to keep doing the same thing,” he said. “Doing everything pretty well, so just need to kind of close it off and have one more day like today.”
Ryan Armour also is two shots back staying on the top page on the leaderboard despite three bogeys.
First round co-leader Andrew Landry is an additional stroke back at -10 rebounding from his second round to be in the fifth position.
Previous PGA TOUR winners, Kevin Streelman, Troy Merritt, Brian Gay and Marc Leishman also are currently in the top-10.
Gay, a second round co-leader got his score as high as 12-under par, before several missteps hurt his round. Another second round co-leader, Beau Hossler, fired a 1-over par round of 71, ending his streak of six consecutive sub-70 outings. His birdie on the last hole places him at 8-under par for the tournament.
Quicken Loans National Third Round leaderboard
T1. Abraham Ancer -13
T1. Francesco Molinari -13
T3. Ryan Armour -11
T3. Zac Blair -11
5. Andrew Landry -10
6. Kevin Streelman -9
T7. Beau Hossler -8
T7. Troy Merritt -8
T7. C.T. Pan -8
T10. Ryan Blaum -7
T10. Bronson Burgoon -7
T10, Brian Gay -7
T10. Chesson Hadley -7
T10. Marc Leishman -7
T10. Tiger Woods -7
Players will tee off in twosomes beginning at 8:30 a.m. with Bill Haas and Kevin Tway and sending at 2:10 p.m. with Abraham Ancer and Francesco Molinari.
Here are other tee times worth noting:
Jimmy Walker & Doug Ghim 9:06 a.m.
Johnson Wagner & Billy Horschel 10:54 a.m.
Rickie Fowler & John Huh 12:20 p.m.
Brian Gay & Kyle Stanley 1:00 p.m.
Chesson Hadley & Marc Leishman 1:10 p.m.
Bronson Burgoon & Tiger Woods 1:20 p.m.
Beau Hossler & Ryan Blaum 1:30 p.m.
Troy Merritt & C.T. Pan 1:40 p.m.
Andrew Landry & Kevin Streelman 1:50 p.m.
Zac Blair & Ryan Armour 2:00 p.m.
Tiger Woods used a camouflage bag during his third round which was a one-of-a-kind bag from Monster Energy and is now being auctioned on Charity Buzz. Woods will autograph the bag and proceeds will benefit the TGR Foundation. The auction opened just prior to Woods’s round and will run through July 10. At the time of this recap, the winning bid is $16,000. The auction can be found at: https://www.charitybuzz.com/catalog_items/1576000… For the first time this tournament, the par-4 eighth hole played toughest with a score of 4.203. Once again, the par-4 14th hole played easiest at TPC Potomac, this time at 3.568 to par… There were three bogey-free rounds on the course today in Abraham Ancer (62), Bronson Burgoon (65) and C.T. Pan (68).
Chris Pohl also contributed to this article