2023 Hero World Challenge leaderboard: Leader Scottie Scheffler finds putter, Matt Fitzpatrick just off pace
Fitzpatrick and Justin Thomas are among the golfers in pursuit of Scheffler heading into the final round
It was only a matter of time before world No. 1 Scottie Scheffler found his groove on the greens, and he appears to have done so this week at the 2023 Hero World Challenge. Riding a hot flat stick en route to a 7-under 65 in his third round, Scheffler heads into the final day in the Bahamas at 16 under and three clear of Matt Fitzpatrick.
Having not played since the 2023 Ryder Cup, Scheffler has gone to work in the shadows of the offseason. Coupling up with putting guru Phil Kenyon -- who works with PGA Tour players like Fitzpatrick, Max Homa, Keegan Bradley and Justin Rose -- Scheffler has reinvented his game on the greens. Utilizing a new putter, taking ownership of the green-reading process and trusting himself, the Texan looks like a new man with the wand in hand.
"Like I said at the beginning of the week, I feel as if I'm much more clear in what I need to be working on and a lot of that has to do with how I'm set up over the ball," said Scheffler. "When I'm set up in the right position, then I feel like my mechanics are really good. That's what I'm focused on. I'm not focused on setting up perfectly. I have my feels that I'm trying to get to in the setup and then not trying to be perfect, just trying to hit good putts."
Scheffler ranks third in this field in strokes gained putting, and on Saturday he matched his putting prowess with the ball-striking we have grown accustomed to seeing from the top player in the game. Gaining nearly five strokes in this department, Scheffler has the entirety of game clicking, which spells trouble for the slew of major championship on chase.
This includes Fitzpatrick, who matched Scheffler's 65 for the round of the day Saturday. Trimming the lead late with a birdie on 18 and an eventual bogey from Scheffler, Fitzpatrick looks to pick up his third trophy of the calendar year and his second in his last three starts worldwide. While some of the names like Scheffler, Justin Thomas, Jordan Spieth and Collin Morikawa may make the leaderboard look like a major championship, Fitzpatrick admits the feel is far from that.
"This is a vacation week," said Fitzpatrick. "I'm just trying to play as well as I can ... I'm just having an enjoyable week. Got friends here, my fiancee's here. We're having a good laugh."
Fitzpatrick could conceivably laugh his way to the winner's circle and surpass Scheffler, who has finished runner-up at this tournament the last two seasons. And while it may ultimately come down to the final pair, a late charge from Thomas kept the Alabama alum within shouting distance with 18 holes to play.
Gaining roughly six strokes on approach through three rounds, Thomas has rediscovered his patented iron play and leads the star-studded field in the statistical category. A welcomed sight, his iron play has been met with his traditional short-game magic and streakiness off the tee. The putter has been cold through 54 holes, but an uptick on the greens would give Thomas a shot from five adrift at his first title since the 2022 PGA Championship.
Thomas' game returning to form comes in lockstep with his good friend, Tiger Woods, returning to competition. Saturday was another step in the right direction for the 15-time major champion as heto get back to even par for the tournament. Following his 2-under 70 in Round 2, Woods has now strung together back-to-back under-par rounds for the first time in three years. Given the visible improvements the first three days, don't be surprised if the cat extends the streak on Sunday.
"I'm very excited at how I have felt physically," said Woods. "Knocking off some rust. I mean, we can always knock off rust at home, but it's so different come game time. As I said to you guys earlier in the week, game time speed is different than at home speed. To be able to knock off some of the rust as I have this week and showed myself that I can recover each and every day, that was kind of an unknown as far as I've walked this far, I've done all my training, but add in playing and concentration and adrenaline and all those other factors that speed up everything, I'm very excited how the week's turned out."
2023 Hero World Challenge leaderboard
1. Scottie Scheffler (-16)
2. Matt Fitzpatrick (-13)
3. Justin Thomas (-11)
T4. Jordan Spieth (-10)
T4. Collin Morikawa (-10)
T4. Tony Finau (-10)
T4. Jason Day (-10)
T8. Sepp Straka (-9)
T8. Brian Harman (-9)
10. Cameron Young (-7)
T11. Justin Rose (-5)
T11. Lucas Glover (-5)
13. Max Homa (-3)
14. Keegan Bradley (-2)
15. Sam Burns (-1)
T16. Tiger Woods (E)
T16. Viktor Hovland (E)
18. Rickie Fowler (+1)
19. Wyndham Clark (+4)
20. Will Zalatoris (+12)
Scheffler has chance to slam the door shut…
Well, those might have been a tournament-ending 10 minutes. Scottie Scheffler entered the 15th hole with a three-stroke lead over Tony Finau who was playing the 18th. Finau hits his second into the water after making bogey on No. 17 while Scheffler hits his second inside 20 feet on the par 5. He will have that to get to 17 under while Finau has dropped to 10 under. Scheffler's lead is four over Matt Fitzpatrick, but it will soon grow to five, maybe six.
Tiger signs for 71
Two straight days in red figures is a win. It wasn't pretty. He left shots out there, but all in all it was a successful day. He was better on the par 5s, wasn't stellar on the back nine and will have plenty to improve during tomorrow's 18. He sits at even for the tournament and 15 strokes off Scottie Scheffler.
Scheffler running away
As for the tournament at hand, the world No. 1 is hummin'. He's got the putter going and has a stranglehold on this tournament with 27 holes to play. He leads by three on the 10th green and if the putter continues to act this way, don't be surprised if that lead grows heading into tomorrow.
Four to go
Woods tacks on a birdie on the short par-4 14th and now heads the hole that has been a thorn in his side the first two days. Making double bogey and bogey the last two days on the par-5 15th, Tiger hopes to add another par-5 birdie. It would get him to 3 under for his round and on pace for a sub-70 round.
Two straight par saves for Woods
A nice up-and-down on 12 was followed by another on 13. He actually got hosed on his approach from the native area as his ball trickled off the green and down a slope. He's been using a lot of flat faces around the green so far this week and it's been cool to see. He's still even par for the week.
Woods drops a shot on par-5 11th
Ugh, that can't be happening for Woods as his back-nine woes continue. He is now 6 under on the front nine and 6 over on the back nine with a bogey on the par-5 11th. Woods' blasted his third from inside 100 yards over the green and gave himself a near impossible up-and-down for par.
Tiger turns in 2 under; red figures for the tournament
That's how you bounce back. Tiger made birdie on all three par 5s on the front side for the first time all week and has now made three birdies in his last four holes to turn in 2 under. Across the first two days, Tiger was 1 over on the 10 par 5s. He is taking advantage of them today and his scorecard shows it.
Tiger's best iron of the week
Ooooo baby, that was pure. After not taking advantage of the short par-4 7th, Tiger lasers his approach into the par-3 8th inside 7 feet. He will have that to get to red figures on the day ahead of the par-5 9th.