Tiger fal­ters as Mer­ritt & Chap­pell share lead

The China Post - - SPORTS - BY JIM SLATER

Troy Mer­ritt fired a tour­na­ment record 10-un­der par 61 Satur­day to share the PGA Quicken Loans Na­tional lead with Kevin Chap­pell while Tiger Woods strug­gled and fell out of con­tention.

Mer­ritt, a 29-year-old Amer­i­can ranked 180th in the world, birdied the first five holes and fin­ished with 11 birdies against a lone bo­gey in the third round at Robert Trent Jones Golf Club.

That left Mer­ritt level with coun­try­man Chap­pell atop the leader­board on 14-un­der 199 af­ter 54 holes with U.S. star Rickie Fowler one stroke back.

“The big thing is we put our­selves in con­tention,” Mer­ritt said. “I hit the ball re­ally well and got a lot out of it. I think we’re go­ing to have a de­cent chance.”

Fowler is com­ing off wins at the Play­ers Cham­pi­onship in May and the Scot­tish Open three weeks ago while Mer­ritt and Chap­pell each seek their first PGA ti­tle.

“I’m hit­ting the ball great,” Chap­pell said. “Shoot the low­est score to­mor­row and I win. That’s the goal.”

The old tour­na­ment record of 62 was shared by Amer­i­cans Hunter Ma­han and An­thony Kim from 2009 at Con­gres­sional Coun­try Club and Nick Wat­ney from 2011 at Aron­i­minik.

Tour­na­ment host Woods sprayed shots all day on his way to a 74 to stand on 208, shar­ing 42nd af­ter start­ing the day level fifth.

“Ba­si­cally it was a fight all day,” Woods said. “Fought through it the best I could. I was hit­ting the ball left on the range warm­ing up. Couldn’t quite get com­fort­able.”

Woods, a 14-time ma­jor cham­pion who has not won a ma­jor since the 2008 U.S. Open, is on a twoyear win drought af­ter strug­gling with in­juries and swing changes the past two sea­sons.

Fowler fired a 68, high­lighted by a 70-foot birdie putt at the par-3 fourth.

“The 70-footer is a bonus,” Fowler said. “That’s one you’re just hop­ing to two-putt and stay away from mak­ing bo­gey. So lit­tle luck there.”

Mer­ritt, who missed the cut in his past five starts, matched his ca­reer low, a 61 last April at the Her­itage.

Chap­pell, ranked 152nd, and Mer­ritt, ranked 180th, have sim­i­lar tales. Each has his lone pro win in a de­vel­op­men­tal tour event and has a PGA run­ner-up fin­ish, Mer­ritt last year at Mem­phis and Chap­pell at the 2011 Texas Open and 2013 Me­mo­rial.

Siz­zling Start

Mer­ritt be­gan his record day with a 30-footer that set the tone, fol­low­ing with birdie putts of 13, six and 11 feet and an ap­proach inches from the cup for a tap-in at five.

The run ended when Mer­ritt left an 18-foot birdie ef­fort short at six. His ap­proach at seven was two inches from the cup for a tapin birdie, but he gave back a shot at the eighth, miss­ing a six-foot par putt.

Mer­ritt ran off four birdies in a row start­ing at the 12th, all on putts of about 10 feet, and added another from that dis­tance at 17.

“It was fun,” Mer­ritt said. “The first two days I missed 11 putts in­side of 12 feet. To­day they all went right in the hole. Found a lit­tle bit of some­thing on the putting green, squared my shoul­ders up just slightly. As a re­sult I was pick­ing the ball out of the hole ver­sus tap­ping it in.”

South Korea’s Kim Whee, Swe­den’s David Ling­merth and Amer­i­cans Charles How­ell and Jason Bohn shared fourth on 201 with Ja­pan’s Ryo Ishikawa, Amer­i­can Bill Haas, Swe­den’s Carl Pet­ters­son and de­fend­ing cham­pion Justin Rose of Eng­land on 202.

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