Marc Leishman takes 5-stroke lead into Sunday at BMW Championship
Rickie Fowler and Jason Day could not make up ground on Saturday to Marc Leishman
On moving day at the BMW Championship at Conway Farms, Rickie Fowler and Jason Day stood still. Oh, both of them played fine -- they both shot 1-under 70 -- but "fine" was not going to get it done on this day where 20 under or better is usually good for the trophy. As a result, Marc Leishman extended his three-stroke lead before the round started to five going into Sunday following his 3-under 68.
It's the second straight event where he has either led or co-led going to the final 18 holes. Two weeks ago, he held the 54-hole lead along with Justin Thomas before faltering late at the Dell Technologies Championship. This time around, it's going to take something special from somebody pretty far back to unseat Leishman from his second win of 2017.
"Game is still in a good spot," Leishman said, who has shot rounds of 62, 64 and 68 this week. "The course changed quite a lot today compared to the first two days, firmed up a lot and greens sped up so that was good to see and nice to keep making birdies like I have been all week. Obviously not as many today but the conditions were quite a bit different. Really happy with the round.
"The 62 was obviously pretty nice but, you know, today was almost as satisfying going into a Saturday with a lead to play the way I did, gave myself a lot of chances. Probably didn't putt quite as well as earlier in the week but still made a lot of putts."
For Day and Fowler, their undoing was the back nine. Coming into Saturday, Fowler had shot 30 and 31 on the back nine, and Day had just touched off a second round in which he made a pair of eagles on that side (including a hole-in-one). On Saturday, the duo combined for just one birdie and stalled out while Leishman surged with a bogey-free 34 on the back.
"Bit of a grind out there today," Day said after his round. "I thought with the pin locations, looking at them this morning, I felt there was an opportunity to shoot a low score, which there was. To be honest, to only have one bogey -- obviously I missed opportunities out there like a couple on the last two days. I missed those today and, unfortunately, shot 1 under. With the way I was hitting it, I'm actually quite happy."
Day, who gained over six strokes in the field in approach shots on the first two days, actually lost a stroke and a half on Saturday. Like he noted, it was actually an achievement that he only had one bogey on the day to his two birdies.
On a day when there were four 65s, six 66s and seven 67s, neither Day nor Fowler were close to touching any of those numbers.
So now it's Leishman's to lose. Only two players (J.B. Holmes and Scott Stallings) have blown five-shot or more leads recently on the PGA Tour. Leishman might join them, of course, because crazy rounds happen all the time on the PGA Tour, according to Justin Ray. But from the way he's hit it the last two outings, it's difficult to see somebody undercutting him on Sunday. Especially with his poor Dell Technologies closing round on the mind (Leishman shot 40 on the back nine there to lose).
"Putting four good rounds together (is the biggest challenge)" Leishman said. "A lot of tournaments you put three rounds together. May not be in a row. Very easy to throw a mediocre round in there. Tomorrow I got to try not to do that.
"After what happened at the Dell I got extra determination to finish this one off and my game is in a better spot. I feel like this course sets up for me a little better than it did at Dell. Hopefully I can just play well, do the right things and not worry about the result too much, as hard as that will be."
Despite the talent that's chasing him, there is a feel of inevitability to the tournament this week. Even his playing partner on Saturday knows this one is just a few holes from being over.
"Leish is playing spectacular," Day said. "Quite happy with how he's happy because we're on the Presidents Cup team together but saying that, I mean he's going to be very difficult to beat tomorrow. I got to come out and play really good golf because he's not making any mistakes.(He's) hitting it on the greens and holing putts. That's a good formula for success and it's going to be tough tomorrow."
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