He was challenged, he was threatened, and at one point he was even tied, but at the end of the third round of the Travelers Championship on Saturday, Xander Schauffele barely maintained his lead over the rest of the field. On Sunday, he'll go for his first win in an individual PGA Tour event since January 2019.
To put that in perspective, the last time Schauffele won on the PGA Tour, Collin Morikawa -- who now has six wins across the PGA Tour and DP World Tour -- was at California and still eight events away from turning professional.
Schauffele leads by one over Patrick Cantlay, who he teamed up with for his most recent PGA Tour victory -- a team win at the Zurich Classic earlier this season. Cantlay shot the round of the day on Saturday and turned a five-stroke deficit at the start of Round 3 into just a one-stroke difference going into the finale.
Here's a look at how their third rounds played out and what to expect going on Sunday.
1. Xander Schauffele (-17): Even as late as the final hole on Saturday, it looked as if Schauffele might kick his lead away. When he teed off, he was five up on Cantlay and four up on a couple of early chargers, and Schauffele started strong enough to maintain that lead. He stalled out in the middle of his round, however, playing the first six holes on the second nine in 1 over.
He bounced back with birdies on No. 16 and No. 17 -- the latter of which nearly knocked over the pin -- as well as a clutch par putt at the last to maintain his narrow margin. All in all, it was a nice day for Schauffele considering how many blows he absorbed from other contenders. Whether he can do that for two consecutive days will determine the outcome of this tournament.
Consider this as well: According to Data Golf, Schauffele has entered the final round of a tournament in the lead or tied for it seven times since fall 2015. In those seven showings, he has gained strokes against what was expected of him in just two of them and won two of the seven. That's something to remember as he tees it up on Sunday afternoon.
2. Patrick Cantlay (-16)
3. Sahith Theegala (-14)
4. Kevin Kisner (-13)
T5. Martin Laird, K.H. Lee (-12)
Cantlay is obviously the biggest contender from this group, and his 63 on Saturday was as easy as 63s get. He was a zero putter (i.e. he did not gain or lose strokes to the field), and he led the field in strokes gained on approach, as well as from tee to green.
Cantlay is not the best story from this group, though. That would be Theegala, who contended at the Phoenix Open earlier this yearn and wept after coming up short of a playoff between, coincidentally, Cantlay and Scottie Scheffler, who went on to win. He's been playing terrific golf for most of the year with no missed cuts since The Players in March and a recent top 10 at the Memorial. A win here for him would be a fabulous cap to a great rookie season (he would also become just the second rookie to win on Tour this year).
An amateur contends
Amateur Michael Thorbjornsen -- who is a 20-year-old rising junior at Stanford -- shot 77-69 last week at Brookline to miss the cut at the U.S., but he's rebounded this week and is T7 after three rounds, six back of Schauffele. He probably doesn't have an opportunity to run down the top of this board and become the first amateur in three decades to win a PGA Tour event, but the entire experience has been a delight for him and a joy to watch.
"I think one thing that might help is winning or coming in second or third, I'm not getting paid either way, so it's just another tournament for me," said Thorbjornsen. "It's just one more round of golf, just trying to, again, do the same thing I did today. Focus on my swing, just like making sure I get to certain positions and I guess like not really having any regrets tomorrow."
He's paired with Webb Simpson in the final round.
Cantlay and Schauffele are, famously, fast friends and vacation pals. I don't know if that helps or hurts them on Sunday as it relates to winning this golf tournament -- they both think it helps -- but it will certainly be a talking point throughout. If the momentum gets going the right way, hopefully we see more shots like we did on No. 17 on Saturday.
"It will be fun," said Schauffele. "I've been looking forward to playing with Pat in a final round. We don't get paired together very often in regular tournaments, only in those team ones. So there's a certain level of comfort we have playing with each other and hopefully that pays off and hopefully we can make a lot of birdies."
"I think it probably helps that I'm playing with him, since I kind of know his game really well," he added. "I can kind of club off him, if anything. It's going to be a lot of fun tomorrow. I've been looking forward to hashing it out with Pat not on a Tuesday."
"It's nice to be out with Xander," said Cantlay. "We actually haven't played that much together in tournament play, maybe only three times in the last three, four years. So it will be good to go out there again with him. Hopefully both play really good golf."
Updated odds and picks
Here is a look at the updated odds with 18 holes to play, via Caesars Sportsbook.
- Xander Schauffele: +110
- Patrick Cantlay: +130
- Sahith Theegala: 11-1
- Kevin Kisner: 20-1
- K.H. Lee: 30-1
- Scottie Scheffler: 50-1
- Webb Simpson: 50-1
- Martin Laird: 50-1
Give me Scheffler at 50-1 here. He's seven back but completely capable of shooting a 61 or 62 on this golf course, which certainly could be enough. I don't love Schauffele at +110, and if I had to pick one of the guys at the top, I'd go with Cantlay at a slightly longer number, even though Schauffele is a bit underrated when playing from this position. I could also be talked into Theegala, who is third in the field in strokes gained tee to green (Scheffler is fourth).