Golf: Americans Martin and Rodgers share lead at PGA RSM Classic

Ben Martin (left) is chasing his first PGA title since 2014 while Patrick Rodgers is seeking his first tour victory. PHOTOS: AFP

WASHINGTON – Ben Martin, chasing his first PGA title since 2014, and fellow American Patrick Rodgers, seeking his first tour victory, shared the lead after Saturday’s third round of the RSM Classic.

Rodgers reeled off four birdies in a row on the back nine on his way to a six-under par 64 at Sea Island Golf Club on St. Simons Island, Georgia.

“It was a great day out there,” said Rodgers.

“I’m just excited to put some good rounds together and it was nice to get on a roll there on the back nine.”

Martin missed a five-foot par putt at 18, making his first bogey in 41 holes to settle for 65, joining Rodgers on 14-under 198 for 54 holes.

“It was just the way you want to draw up a golf round,” Martin said.

“I was hitting my targets off the tee, giving myself plenty of opportunities on the greens and seeing a few putts go in.”

Canada’s Adam Svensson, a back-nine starter, birdied six of his last eight holes to fire a 62 and share third on 199 with Americans Andrew Putnam and Sahith Theegala.

A pack on 200 included Canada’s Taylor Pendrith and Americans Harry Higgs, Brian Harman, Alex Smalley, Taylor Montgomery, Kevin Streelman and Beau Hossler.

Players competed for two rounds on the par-72 Plantation course and par-70 Seaside course, with the last 36 holes over the Seaside layout.

World No. 372 Martin, whose only PGA triumph came in 2014 at Las Vegas, birdied the fourth, par-3 sixth and par-5 seventh from between seven and 10 feet.

Martin dropped his approach to three feet to set up a birdie at 10, sank a 14-foot birdie putt at 14 and drove the green at the par-5 15th to set up a tap-in birdie but lost the lead after he came up short of the green from the fairway at 18.

“I would have loved to have kept a clean card there,” Martin said.

“It was a good Saturday. I’m just excited to be in the mix on Sunday.”

World No. 169 Rodgers, in his eighth PGA campaign, has had three career-best runner-up finishes, the most recent at Sea Island in 2018.

After a bogey at the second, he birdied the fourth and fifth, closed the front nine with another and made four in a row starting with a 22-foot birdie putt at 13 and capped by a 30-footer at the 16th.

“It’s always nice when you see the hard work pay off,” Rodgers said.

Harman, who shot 64, could be the host resort’s first resident to win the title.

“There’s a lot of talent on this island and one of us is going to win this tournament sooner or later,” Harman said.

“Excited to get after it tomorrow.”

Over at the DP World Tour Championship in Dubai, former world No. 2 Jon Rahm produced a battling, bogey-free round of seven-under par 65 to hit the front of the event on Saturday.

The 2021 US Open victor holds a one-stroke lead over Matthew Fitzpatrick, the 2022 US Open champion, with Rory McIlroy also breathing down his neck a further two strokes back. All three are also looking to become the first three-time champion of the tournament.

Fitzpatrick and McIlroy, meanwhile, are two of the seven players in the field vying to win the Race to Dubai.
With two others, Adrian Meronk and Tommy Fleetwood, both two strokes behind McIlroy at 10-under, there is every prospect of a thrilling final round on Sunday.

McIlroy needs to finish ahead of Ryan Fox and Fitzpatrick to become only the second player after Sweden’s Henrik Stenson in 2013 to win the FedEx Cup and the Race to Dubai in the same season.

Rory McIlroy overcame a stuttering start when he sandwiched an eagle on the second with bogeys on the first and third. PHOTO: AFP

The Northern Irishman, who had closed his round on Friday with a birdie-birdie-eagle finish, overcame a stuttering start when he sandwiched an eagle on the second with bogeys on the first and third. But he was brilliant otherwise in a round of 65 to finish on tied fourth place at 12-under par.

“It’s been a little better. I thought that last three holes yesterday could really kick-start a little bit of momentum for me, and I’ve brought that into today,” said the 33-year-old.

“I know how to shoot low scores here and I know how to make birdies. It was just a matter of getting it out of myself. Over the last 21 holes, it’s been a lot better.

“I just need to continue to put the ball in play off the tee and in the fairway and give myself plenty of chances from there.”

Rahm, who is out of the running for the Race to Dubai title, relishes the challenge of the Earth course at the Jumeirah Golf Estates – his worst score in 14 rounds at the course is a 70.

“Could not be any more opposite of the feeling from the second round,” said the Spaniard.

“I don’t think I could have shot any lower today. I maximised the round. I’m hoping, come tomorrow, I can be a little better off the tee, and still keep the good iron play and good putting going.” AFP

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