WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS — Last week, as groundskeepers made final preparations for the PGA Greenbrier, Bubba Watson took new local homeowner Keenan Bradley out for a covert practice round.
“We snuck out last week and played the Old White when no one was allowed to play,” Watson said. “That’s the benefits of knowing Governor Jim.”
Gov. Justice had nothing to do with their pairing for the July 7 third round, in which Watson shot 5-under 65 to climb into sixth place and Bradley shot 67 to move into 14th.
“Today was fun,” Watson said, “but of course I beat him, so it was more fun for me.”
With greens drying out in the afternoon, they shared an adventure on No. 15.
Bradley’s putt lipped out and still rolled 7 feet past the hole, leading to a double-bogey. Watson’s 4-foot par putt suddenly looked perilous as he struggled to gauge the downhill speed.
“So I babied it and it broke off,” he said. “That’s the one hiccup I wish we could take back.”
Watson rebounded to birdie the next two holes and matched the low round of the day, moving three shots behind the leaders.
“I know I’ve come back from six shots a couple times in my career,” Watson said. “I just know that I’m going to have to have a low one (today). It would be good to have the trophy stay here.”
Watson tees off at 1:35 p.m. today with Sam Saunders.
MICKELSON BREAKS EVEN
Phil Mickelson needed birdies on 17 and 18 to salvage a par round Saturday. He’s tied for 38th, at 5-under.
“I hit a lot of good shots, but I didn’t score great,” he said. “I’m getting better as the week goes on, and I’m building some momentum for my two-week stretch over in the U.K., and I’m looking forward to getting over there. But I’d like to finish it off with a good round (today).”
Mickelson’s final-round tee time is 10:25 a.m.
NA JOKES TIME ‘RUNNING OUT’
With a 65, Kevin Na moved into third place, at 13-under. After an eagle on the par-5 12th, he resigned himself to a bogey on No. 14, when his tee shot drifted into the right rough. But a 27-foot putt saved par.
“Oh, it was huge. I wasn’t even trying to make it, really,” Na said. “I was thinking a bogey is OK, and halfway there I go, ‘Oh, my God, this is going in.’ That was luck.”
Na’s lone PGA victory came in 2011, after eight years on the Tour. Seven years later, he’s hungry for a follow-up.
“I told everybody that it will not take that long to win my second one, and I’m running out of time,” he said. “Hopefully, I get this done. Every time I get in contention, I’m hungry to win.”