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The former Virginia Tech standout is leading after the third round, but the tournament's short history says he's in peril.
Johnson Wagner chips up to the 17th hole in the third round of the Greenbrier Classic PGA tour golf tournament in White Sulphur Springs, W.Va.
Johnson Wagner tips his ball to the crowd after a birdie putt on the 18th hole during the third round of The Greenbrier Classic in White Sulphur Springs, W.Va., Saturday. Wagner shot a 6-under-par 64.
Jimmy Walker chips up to the 17th green during the third round of The Greenbrier Classic in White Sulphur Springs, W.Va., Saturday.
Saturday, July 6, 2013
WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W.Va. — Same scenario, different year?
Count Johnson Wagner as one golfer who would prefer that not be the case.
The third round of the The Greenbrier Classic came to an end with a 54-hole leader talking about how he feels confident and comfortable with his golf game.
This time, it’s Wagner, a former Virginia Tech standout, who shot a 6-under-par 64 and takes a two-shot lead over Jimmy Walker into today’s final round at The Greenbrier resort.
And yes, he was thrilled with his tour around The Old White TPC on Saturday, which finished with a birdie-two on the 18th hole.
“I’m feeling very good” said Wagner, who had seven birdies and one bogey in the third round. “It’s always nice to birdie the last [hole] — especially after having a bunch of good chances on the back nine that didn’t drop.”
With this just being the fourth edition of the tournament, citing historical data is a little misleading, but we’ll do it anyway.
No third-round leader of The Greenbrier Classic has gone on to win.
Back in 2010, Jeff Overton finished strong with a 3-under 67, but that ended up being one stroke too many as a result of Stuart Appleby charging to victory with a magical round of 59.
The past two years, it was more about the third-round leaders taking themselves out of the hunt. Anthony Kim gave up his one-stroke advantage 2011 by shooting 74 on the final day and giving way to Scott Stallings.
Last year, then-reigning U.S. Open champion Webb Simpson shot 73, surrendering a two-shot lead and allowing Ted Potter Jr. to charge from four shots back to earn his first PGA Tour win.
On a course where a low score is always possible, Wagner outlined his frontrunner strategy — no complacency allowed.
“This is the kind of course that if you play tentative at all, you’re going to miss fairways,” he said. “And when you miss fairways out here, you get some awkward angles on some of these tou gh Tour pins — especially on Sunday.”
So far this week, that’s been Wagner’s approach.
In his two low rounds — Wagner shot a 62 on Thursday — he has 13 birdies, an eagle and just one bogey. This had not been the case for his last seven tournaments, which ended with six missed cuts and a withdrawal from last month’s Memorial.
“I think maybe I had made two birdies in my previous two tournaments,” he said. “Wednesday, I was just telling my caddie, all I want to do this week is make a bunch of birdies. I know I can make a bunch.”
While Wagner’s strategy might be in place, he admitted he has no idea where his biggest competition might come from today.
Walker, who shot 31 on the back nine Saturday, is a likely contender. Like Stallings and Potter before him, Walker would like to make this tournament his first Tour win, and he came into the week in a much better mindset than Wagner.
Walker has missed just two cuts in 18 tournaments this year, and he has finished in the top 10 twice in previous Greenbrier Classics.
Also, a strong finish will likely earn Walker a spot in the British Open, which will be played in two weeks.
“I’m ready [to win], so it’s going to happen when it happens,” Walker said. “I just keep putting myself in position. If I keep doing that it’s going to happen.”
Others near the top of the leaderboard include Swede Jonas Blixt, who played at Florida State and is a former ACC champion. He’s four shots back.
For those looking for Tour newcomers who might make some noise today, consider Jordan Spieth, the 19-year-old two-time U.S. Junior Amateur winner, who turned pro last December and already has five top-10 finishes on the Tour.
The top established Tour name in contention is 2011 FedEx Cup champion Bill Haas, who shot a 67 and is six strokes back.
So there are plenty of players for Wagner to fight off, although he said he will try not to give it too much concern.
“I tried not to look today, but there are so many [scoreboards] out there, it’s hard not to see them.” Wagner said. “I’ll try not to look for nine holes tomorrow.
“You always know when you’re playing pretty good, there tends to be more cameras on you if you’re in the lead. I think we had three sets of them out there today for a while, so I pretty much knew where I was.”
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