ATLANTA – Scottie Scheffler will need to work overtime if he wants to win the Tour Championship and the FedEx Cup on Sunday.
That’s because play was suspended with only 15 of the 29 players in the field having completed the third round at East Lake Golf Club on Saturday. Scheffler hit his tee shot on 13 to the right before play was interrupted for the second time that afternoon due to lightning in the area at 6:36 p.m. and later asked for the day. The game is expected to resume at 9:45 am. ET and the final round will begin at 11:15 a.m.
While just over half the field finished their laps on Saturday and can sleep, Justin Thomas wasn’t so lucky. He has to get up and back on the fairway to hit a 2-foot birdie putt to complete his third round. His eagle attempt at 18 from 34 feet was hit just as the horn sounded. If he does, he’ll shoot a 7-under 63.
When play was suspended, Schauffler was still 19 under for the tournament, but his two-shot overnight lead had been cut in half by Xander Schauffele. South Korea’s Sungjae Im was 4 under through 14 holes and three shots back of the lead.
Scheffler stuck in neutral
Scottie Scheffler didn’t move anywhere on Moving Day. He made par through the first seven holes, stretching his par to 13 holes dating back to Friday’s second round. He finally broke the birdie seal on No. 8, hitting a bunker 12 feet and holed the putt.
“Not many guys can hit that putt and then follow it up with the putt … it was so important for Scheffler to make a birdie today before a bogey,” NBC’s Paul Azinger said.
Scheffler pulled his tee shot on the par-3 11thu on a greenside bunker and failed to get up and down for his first bogey in 38 holes. He was even for the day and 19 under for the tournament when the day’s play was called.
“I wasn’t playing my best, but I was kind of in there,” Scheffler said. I was looking forward to giving myself some chances at the end, but then the horn went off.
Azinger noticed that Scheffler was not at his best. “You can tell by the way he carries himself. He’s just trying to hold on. He just hasn’t called,” he said. “Some dicey wedges for a guy who usually, that’s his strength. He’s just hanging in there today, trying to find something.”
Schauffele applies pressure
Xander Schauffele tees off on the 2nd hole during the third round of the TOUR Championship golf tournament. Mandatory Credit: Adam Hagy-USA TODAY Sports
With birdies on Nos. 2 and 3 on Saturday, Schauffele grabbed a share of the lead and erased a four-stroke deficit at the start of the tournament on the staggered scoreboard and one that at one point in the second round had grown. in an 8 stroke deficit.
But his share of the lead quickly evaporated. Schauffele, who had only made two bogeys in his first 39 holes, made two in a row at the fourth and fifth. But he wasted little time getting back to birdie with back-to-back rounds on Nos. 6 and 7.
On the last, Schauffele dropped his tee into the trees but made an excellent recovery to find the green.
“Openings in the trees for this guy are like a kitten,” NBC’s Roger Maltbie said.
For good measure, Schauffele buried the 33-foot birdie putt. He gave the strike back to No. 11 when he followed Scheffler into left-field dugout Greenside and couldn’t save par.
With six holes to play in the third round, Schauffele is 18 under and one stroke behind as he seeks his fourth win of the season and first FedEx Cup title.
Hideki Matsuyama’s impressive clinic
Japan’s Hideki Matsuyama produced the low round of the day among the finishers, carding eight birdies and a solitary bogey en route to a signature 7-under 63.
Matsuyama was putting on an impressive ball clinic, ranking first in Strokes Gained: Tee-to-Green (3,462) and second in SG: Approach the Green (+2,804). Matsuyama started the week at 2-under with a staggered start and didn’t help his chances by opening with a tie 70. He shot 32 in the opening round and missed the field by more than a stroke Thursday. He was positive SG: Putting the last two rounds.
On Saturday, Matsuyama rolled in four birdies on the front nine before bogeying No. 10. He rallied by making a birdie on No. 11 and another on 13u and finishing his round with back-to-back birdies. Matsuyama improved to 13 under for the tournament and was tied for ninth when play was suspended.
East Lake strikes
Par is 70 at East Lake Golf Club, but it’s more like a 67 the way the top 29 in the field chewed it up Saturday before play was suspended. Of the 15 rounds completed on Saturday, only one player failed to break par. Poor Corey Conners signed for 71, but he won’t be too poor if he stays in last place – that still pays $500,000.
The average score over the 15 rounds completed was 67.33, which is on pace to be the lowest single-round average on the Tour Championship. He would break the mark of 67.5 in the first round of the tournament in 2007.
The story originally appeared on GolfWeek