Darren Clarke moved into the top-10 heading into the final day of the Charles Schwab Championship but will need a big final round if he is to contend for the title in Phoenix.
The former Open champion carded six birdies and three bogeys in a three-under 68 on Saturday to move to 10-under for the week at the PGA Tour Champions season-ending event, but that is six shots back of leader Jim Furyk with just one round to play.
After birdies at the first, fourth and fifth in a strong start to his round, Clarke dropped his first shot at the sixth but immediately got it back at the seventh.
Another birdie came at the 10th as he looked to make a move towards the top of the leaderboard, but his momentum was halted abruptly with back-to-back bogeys at 11 and 12, which dropped him back down the leaderboard.
While he finished with a birdie at the 16th to move inside the top-10, Clarke looks to be too far back to make a realistic push for the title in the final round and will instead try to finish the season on a high with a good result in Arizona.
The former European Ryder Cup captain cannot win the Charles Schwab Cup, even if he did produce a remarkable comeback to win the season-ending tournament, and it looks like Furyk is on his way to completing a memorable double.
The former US Open winner carded a bogey-free six-under 65 consisting of four birdies and an eagle in his third round to move up to 16-under, which is one shot clear of Kirk Triplett with only 18 holes of the season still to play.
Should he win, Furyk would take possession of the Charles Schwab Cup, but the 51-year-old is taking a very relaxed approach to proceedings in Phoenix.
“Today I really just wanted to go out and play a really solid round. The scores are low, but you still have to be patient. You don’t want to try to force it in there, make stupid bogeys,” he explained.
“I felt like I did a real good job of keeping the ball in front of me today, being patient, being aggressive when I could and when I needed to be and playing smart when I needed to be as well.
“If I give myself a good opportunity and I go out, if I play a good one tomorrow, I have a chance to win the tournament.”
Overnight leader Triplett could only manage a 69 on day three, which leaves him one behind going into the final day at 15-under, with Canada’s Stephen Ames and New Zealand’s Steven Alker a shot further back at 14-under.
The round of the day, however, went to current Charles Schwab Cup leader Bernhard Langer who, despite struggling with back problems this week, went out and fired a remarkable eight-under 63 at Phoenix Country Club to haul himself inside the top-10.
The German was bogey-free for his round and carded two eagles and four birdies in his 63, which has him 10-under for the week and still in with an outside chance of reeling in Furyk and holding onto top spot in the order of merit standings.
“It’s one of my best rounds ever, I think, under the circumstances, for sure. Played very solid. Finally found the groove with the driver and hit some good iron shots as well. I had been putting very good all week, so it’s just a matter of finding the fairways and the greens,” reflected Langer on his 63.
“The back lightened up a little bit, another 10, 20 percent better and made me just a little more free to go after the ball, stay in the shot. The last couple days I just straightened up quite a bit because of the flinching I was doing because of the impact, because of the pain.
“It was fun to get a result because we did a bit of math last night, my son and I. He says if you finish top-18, Jim Furyk would have to finish second alone, and so my goal was to do that. Or maybe third alone, I can’t remember now.
“My goal was to be in the top-18 tomorrow and now maybe even a little further up if possible.”
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