POTOMAC, Md. (AP) — Keegan Bradley didn’t do anything special on the only easy scoring day this week at the Wells Fargo Championship, opening with a par 70 that left him around the cut line.
Since conditions got tough, Bradley has been TPC Potomac’s top player at Avenel Farm.
Bradley shot the lowest score for the second straight day on Saturday, a 3-under 67 that gave him a three-day total of 8-under 202 and a two-stroke lead over Max Homa at the British Open on a US Open style course. .
About 2 inches of rain has fallen since Friday morning, but the low-level course near the Potomac River has held up well enough to avoid any game delays. Temperatures dipped into the low 40s Fahrenheit on Saturday.
“It felt like a Patriots playoff game in December,” said Bradley, who grew up in New England. “It was fun, but I’m glad I’m done.”
Bradley was one of four players to shoot in the 60s. The scoring average was 73.7, the highest over par on the PGA Tour since the last round of the 2020 US Open at Winged Foot .
Despite taking just one victory in the past nine years, the 35-year-old Bradley has been solid recently, with top-10 finishes in three of his last five events, including a fifth to the Players Championship during another bad weather week.
The jaw-dropping number for a player whose putter held him back: Bradley ranks second in the field this week in putting by the PGA Tour’s “strokes won” metric. His key is Saturday: 14 feet for a birdie on the par-3 ninth hole, 21 feet for a birdie on the tricky par-4 11, 9 feet for a birdie on the 16 and, finally, 8 feet to save par after having gone bunker- to bunker on the closing hole.
“Today and yesterday was just really good ball-striking and really good putting. It’s rare that we match those and I’ve matched it the last two days,” Bradley said. If I can go on for a bit, I’ll like my chances.”
A victory for Bradley would put him in the top 60 in the world, making him bye for the US Open at the Country Club in Brookline, Massachusetts.
“It’s on my mind,” he said. “I know what’s at stake.”
Jason Day’s revamped swing couldn’t hold up for a third straight day. Leader after 18 and 36 holes, Day began to struggle with his driver before it spilled over to the rest of the bag. He found the same pond on consecutive holes – a driver who never crossed terra firma on the par-4 fourth, leading to a triple bogey, and a 3-wood that snagged violently on the fifth.
Day appeared to lose his grip on the club when he hit another hook into a water hazard with his second shot on the par-5 10th, even though he had half a dozen gloves hanging from the ribs of his umbrella. He shot 79 to fall seven shots off the lead.
“Unfortunately, I just didn’t have my stuff today,” Day said. “I made a lot of mistakes and kicked into the penalty areas. It’s good. I just have to get back to it tomorrow and try to find some positives.
Homa fired a consistent 71 as partners Day and Luke List struggled, finding fairways and hitting conservative approach shots for routine pars. He went from Day behind by two to leading by two in a two-hole span that he played par. But back-to-back bogeys on the back nine got Bradley past him.
The second best score of the day belonged to Rory McIlroy, who made the cut on the count and played on the opposite side of the leader course. The top-ranked player in the field at No. 7, McIlroy bogeyed his first two holes, birdied four before the turn and closed with nine straight pars for a 68 that propelled him into a tie for sixth at 2. under.
“I think when you see conditions like this you have to have a pretty optimistic attitude about it and for me it was just grateful to be here,” McIlroy said.
Anirban Lahiri shot 70 and was four shots alongside James Hahn (72), a former champion of this event at his usual home of Quail Hollow, who is taking a break this year as it hosts the Presidents Cup in September. Matt Fitzpatrick was 3 under after a 71.
“It’s like I’ve just done 12 rounds in a professional boxing match,” Lahiri said. “You fight everything. You fight your body, the elements, the water, the cold, the conditions. Yes, it’s hard work and you just have to grit your teeth and kind of grind it.
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