Ben Curtis retained his lead at the Texas Open on Saturday, leaving him just one round from his first PGA Tour victory since 2006 in what has been his most humbling year as a pro.
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Curtis finally made his first stumbles – once holding up a group playing six holes back when hacking the ball into the neighboring fairway as his only escape from under a tree – but his 1-over 73 was enough to stay atop the leaderboard at 9 under Saturday.
Matt Every was grateful to end a long day in the same position where he started – three strokes behind the former British Open champion. He shot a 73 after waking early to finish his suspended second round, but it’s his course-record 63 from Thursday that still has him in contention.
Mayakoba winner John Huh (67), Seung-Yui Noh (68) and Charlie Wi (71) were five strokes back at 4 under.
Aside from Huh, no one within five strokes of Curtis has won on the tour. Despite six years passing since his last victory, Curtis said he knows how to handle the final round.
”In the past when I’ve played in these circumstances, that’s what I did: I just focused on my game and if at the end of 18 holes it’s good enough to win, great,” Curtis said. ”If not, I have to shake the guy’s hand that won and move forward.”
The Texas Open is only the fourth PGA Tour stop this year for Curtis, whose tournament invitations are no longer a sure thing after his status plummeted to near the bottom rungs of the tour.
Curtis preserved his lead despite two double bogeys, including a wayward drive on the par-5 8th that left the 2003 British Open champion hitting twice from the adjacent fairway. Curtis said he and his caddie decided there was no other choice after his tee shot veered left and landed under a mesquite tree, surrounded by cactus and with no clear path back toward the hole.
”We were joking that we were on the second hole for 50 minutes today,” Curtis said.
Curtis has some history on his side: Since 2000, eight third-round leaders at the Texas Open have held on to win.
Every called his round ”scrappy” after he started the week with a course record at TPC San Antonio, two weeks after ditching his swing instructor and adopting a new laid-back stance on practice – which sometimes means not practicing at all.
He had three bogeys Saturday but was saved by a couple birdies, including a 10-footer set up by a dead-on tee shot on the par-3 3rd.
”Overall, not bad,” Every said. ”I have a chance to win.”
Matt Kuchar, the tournament’s top-ranked player at No. 15, pulled back into contention with a 67 that was only marred by a bogey on the par-4 11th when the wind rolled his approach off the green to 21 feet on the fringe.
”I put myself in position,” Kuchar said. ”Maybe a long shot, but at least a chance.”
Kuchar was tied for sixth at 3 under along with Greg Chalmers (69), Brian Gay (71), Cameron Tringale (76) and David Mathis (77).
Mathis’ tumble was particularly swift. After starting the day two strokes off the lead, Mathis sank three birdies and walked to No. 15 in third place. But he bogeyed the hole and then made matters worse on the par-3 16th when his tee shot sailing into a crowded grandstand of ducking spectators.