The European Tour trio of John Daly, Colin Montgomerie and Sergio Garcia will face each other in the final group at Harding Park Golf Course on Sunday with their sights set on capturing the World Golf Championships – American Express Championship.
Daly leads on nine under par 201 after bouncing back from three early dropped shots to post a three under par 67. Montgomerie, who led since an opening 64, is one back after shooting a one under par 69 while Garcia moved into a share of third place on seven under after he too shot a 67.
Sharing that third spot is World Number One Tiger Woods, after a 68, who will head out in the penultimate group in the company of a fourth European Tour Member in the top five, Sweden’s Henrik Stenson, and Australian Stuart Appleby.
The WGC – American Express Championship is living up to its top billing with the world’s greatest players lining up for what promises to be an outstanding final day in San Francisco.
Daly looked to be out of sorts when he hooked his opening tee shot on his way to bogeying the first and then running up a double bogey on the third. But the former Open and US PGA Champion soon hit his stride, smashing some monstrous drives much to the delight of the vociferous crowd.
Birdies at the fourth and the seventh clawed two shots back but it was not until he eagled the par five tenth, having hit his drive 380 yards, that he was back in the hunt. Two more birdies at the 14th and 16th took him past Montgomerie for the first time.
“The birdie on the fourth got my momentum going,” said Daly. “The crowd is a great help. The fans here are great. They root for everybody and its great to feed off the crowd.”
Montgomerie once again played magnificently from tee to green but the putts were refusing to drop. A birdie on the fourth was immediately given back on the fifth. He picked up another shot with a birdie two on the seventh before making ten straight pars coming home.
Playing with Daly brought its own challenges with the American enjoying huge support from the San Francisco fans who cheered his every move and Montgomerie will have to handle the same if not more noise in the final round if he is to win his first strokeplay title on American soil.
“I did particularly well to par the last ten holes, so I’m quite proud of what I did there to beat par and stay in contention,” said the Scot. “That’s what one does come Saturday night, give oneself an opportunity to win and I’ve done that and we’ll see what happens tomorrow.
“It’s very noisy out there, very noisy, but it’s all good fun and it’s good for people to see their heroes, but it’s an event and a half.”
Garcia mastered the testing wind that swirled around the cypress trees with a flawless 67, picking his three shots up on the tenth, 12th and 16th holes. The 25 year old Spaniard has picked up four top tens in the last five WGC – American Express Championship events but is now well positioned to take the step up into the winners’ enclosure.
“Finally I am starting to play a little bit better so I think it is going to be fun,” said Garcia.
Stenson matched Garcia’s round of 67, mixing three bogeys with six birdies to lie just three strokes off the pace in a bunched leaderboard. The Swede has been making a name for himself of late and showed with his tied 13th finish in the WGC – NEC Invitational that he is not afraid of the big stage.
“I like playing with the best players in the world,” he said. “I moved up a level this year and had some good results. I played with Phil (Mickelson) the first two days and that makes you want to play your absolute best and I kept it up today.”