Thursday, January 28, 2021

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Even with late stumble, Maguire in command at Doral

DORAL, Florida—To take a three-shot lead into the final round of the Shell Open, American MJ Maguire had to make a slippery, downhill, seven-footer on his final hole of Saturday’s third round, a putt he needed for double bogey. Maguire calmly drained the putt, and that left him with a 5-under 66 that put him at 12-under for the tournament. He holds that three-stroke advantage over fellow American John Somers. Argentina’s Andrés Gallegos and American Chris Wiatr both shot 69s at Trump National Doral’s Golden Palm Course on Saturday, and they’re tied for third, at 8-under, four shots behind Maguire.

It had been a sublime day for Maguire leading up to the 18th hole as he stood on the final tee at 14-under overall. After hitting his tee shot left into a stand of trees, his ball dropped into mulch next to the base of one of the trees. Maguire pitched out, his ball not getting back onto the fairway.

“I would have liked to have chipped it out a little farther, to get it in the fairway. I was still in the rough, and I had a flyer lie,” he explained of his second shot. “I took a wedge from 135 (yards). That’s normally a smooth wedge number, and it got up in the air. I think the adrenaline was going, obviously. I hit it good, and it just went too far.”

The ball landed in the water surrounding the green, a penalty stroke ensuing. From the drop zone, Maguire hit his fifth shot to seven feet, and he felt fortunate to walk away with only a double bogey. “It was not easy. It took my full attention,” he said of his final putt. “I didn’t want to walk off with a triple (bogey). I was happy to make that.

“That was my only real hiccup out there. If you would have told me at the start of the day, I would have taken 5-under. It’s fine,” continued Maguire, who has a pair of runner-up PGA TOUR Latinoamérica performances but no wins on his resume. He hopes to change that, with 18 holes remaining in the Tour’s restart to its season.

Prior to his 18th-hole adventure, Maguire had a clean scorecard, with seven birdies and 10 pars. Besides his final putt, the highlight of his day came on the par-3 12th, when he rolled in a 20-footer for birdie. “That was kind of a gift, a bonus on that island green,” he added.

Somers began the third round tied for ninth but surged into contention with a wild day that eventually saw him shoot a 5-under 66. On his front nine, Somers was even-par, with three pars, an eagle, two birdies, two bogeys and a double bogey. You read that correctly. One of his birdies came at No. 9, and he stayed hot, adding four additional birdies, finishing his five-in-a-row streak at No. 13. Somers added an eagle at the par-5 16th, a bogey at the 17th and a par to finish.

“It was a little bit of a roller-coaster, especially at the beginning,” the North Carolina native understated with a wry smile. Things began to go awry for Somers on No. 5, a hole he bogeyed. By the time he got to No. 8, he was 1-over for the day, playing that sequence of holes in 4-over.

“I kind of deviated from my game plan on five. I got a little nervous on the tee shot on the sixth and then before you know it, I was coming back to square one,” he noted. “I had to settle myself down and get things going.”

After three-putting No. 8, Somers holed out for birdie from off the green on the par-3 ninth, and it was a birdie fest going forward for the current Korn Ferry Tour member and winner of the 2019 Chile Open.

Maguire, Somers and Wiatr make up the last grouping of the final round, the threesome teeing off at 11:10 a.m.

Did you know MJ Maguire has seen action on the PGA TOUR (one appearance), Korn Ferry Tour (four starts), PGA TOUR Latinoamérica (34 starts), Mackenzie Tour – PGA TOUR Canada (10 starts) and the LOCALiQ Series (eight starts)?

Key Information

• The cut came Saturday morning, at 1-over, with 57 players moving to the final two rounds.

• Only four players have turned in three rounds in the 60s through 54 holes: Americans MJ Maguire (69-66-66) and Chris Wiatr (67-67-69), Argentina’s Andrés Gallegos (67-69-69) and Canadian Drew Nesbitt (69-69-69).

• Five additional players—Santiago Gómez (tied for fifth), Sam Stevens (tied for fifth), Tommy Cocha (tied for ninth), Brandon Matthews (tied for 14th) and Jacob Bergeron (tied for 18th)—have shot nothing but under-par rounds this week.

• MJ Maguire continues to dominate the Golden Palm’s four par-5s. He made three birdies and a par there Saturday and is a cumulative 9-under for the week on holes 2, 4, 11 and 16.

• MJ Maguire, John Somers, Ryan Baca and Carson Jacobs all shot 66s Saturday for low-round-of-the-day honors. Jacobs had the biggest jump of the day, improving 26 positions on the leaderboard into a tie for 18th. Baca is tied for ninth, three shots behind Somers and six shy of Maguire.

• A pair of Argentines are in position to make a run Sunday, with Andrés Gallegos tied for third with Chris Wiatr, four strokes off the lead, while Tano Goya, on the strength of a 3-under 68, is tie for fifth, at 7-under, and five shots behind MJ Maguire.

• When the day began, Finland’s Toni Hakula shared the lead with MJ Maguire, with the two players going in different directions. Hakula had a challenging day, with two balls in the water early in his round that put a damper on any thoughts he had of staying in contention. The University of Texas product eventually shot a 4-over 75 and dropped into a tie for 23rd with 18 holes to play.

• Sam Stevens’ undoing Saturday came at the par-4 eighth hole. After making birdie at the par-3 seventh, he made a triple bogey-7 at No. 8. Stevens still managed his third consecutive under-par round—a 1-under 70—and he’s tied for fifth, five shots off the lead.

• By the 10th hole, Argentina’s Tano Goya was 4-under for the day and making a serious move up the leaderboard. He cooled after that, with seven pars and a bogey to finish his 3-under 68.

• Canada’s Drew Nesbitt, the only player in PGA TOUR Latinoamérica history to shoot a 59 (at the 2018 Aberto do Brasil), has made one more birdie than bogey in each of his first three rounds that have all resulted in 1-under 69s. Thursday and Friday he had four birdies, while Saturday he had six.

Quotable

“I drove it well. I took advantage of wedges when I got wedges in my hand.” –MJ Maguire

“I think (my) course management is light years beyond what it was in, say, 2017. Managing my game now, knowing when to be aggressive and when to be conservative, has really been the main thing I’ve worked on a lot.” –MJ Maguire

“I’m just looking forward to the challenge [Sunday] playing with the lead. I’m excited about it.” –MJ Maguire

“I’ve been rolling it really good. I love these greens. They’re just rolling great.” –MJ Maguire

“I’ve been in this spot before. I don’t know if I’ve been in the lead. But I’ve been close. I think I’m ready now to finish off strong. I think I know what it takes to close out these tournaments.” –MJ Maguire on taking the lead into the final round

“I just kept that momentum going from No. 9. I hit it really close on 10, wedged it close on 11, had a tap in on 12—they almost all felt like tap-ins. I don’t think I had anything (putts) outside of five feet on those four holes. On 16, I hit a perfect tee shot and a perfect second shot in and just rolled it in.” –John Somers on his back-nine stretch of success

“On this course, a bogey or worse is just out there waiting for you. You have to be really smart out here and golf your ball.” –John Somers

“It’s going to be fun playing with MJ. He’s a good guy, so we’ll have a good time.” –John Somers on his final-round grouping with MJ Maguire and Chris Wiatr

“This was my steppingstone here. This Tour really got me ready for Korn Ferry (Tour) and everything beyond that. I owe everything to PGA TOUR Latinoamérica.” –John Somers reflecting on his 2019 season

“Today I struck the ball better than the past few days, but the putter didn’t work. I had to stay very patient, and fortunately I didn’t get desperate at any time and finished with a round under-par.”
–Andrés Gallegos

“This wasn’t a day for me to score over par because of the way I struck the ball, so I’m pleased and looking forward to the final day.” –Andrés Gallegos

“Today was well-played. I tried to stay patient. I got off to not the greatest start. It’s tough having those par-5s jammed together on the front. You need to take care of them early, and I wasn’t able to do that.” –Chris Wiatr on his eight-par, one-bogey front nine

“This course is really about avoiding bogeys as much as it is going at pins. You need to be careful and cautious with your targets because there is disaster looming around every corner.” –Chris Wiatr

“I’m happier with my finish today. [Friday] I bogeyed three of my last four holes. Today, I only made one bogey—on the front.” –Chris Wiatr

“I thought I could have grabbed two more (birdies) on 17 and 18. I had really good looks, and I just have to keep giving myself those.” –Chris Wiatr

Third-Round Weather Report

Warm and overcast most of the day, with brief rain showers twice during the round. High of 77. Wind ESE at 4-6 mph.

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