Golf

Monday shootout expected in final round of Honda Classic

Ian Poulter had the lead alone at 9-under-par early in the final round but stumbled with a double bogey on No. 5 and a bogey on No. 6. He made birdie on No. 7 to share the lead with Paul Casey.
Ian Poulter had the lead alone at 9-under-par early in the final round but stumbled with a double bogey on No. 5 and a bogey on No. 6. He made birdie on No. 7 to share the lead with Paul Casey. AP

From the start, nothing has been normal about the 2015 Honda Classic.

Tiger Woods not playing; world No. 1 Rory McIlroy failing to make the cut; two massive rain delays on Friday throwing the schedule off-kilter; a severe storm with 60 mph winds pummeling the course on Friday; and play being extended an extra day in order to get all 72 holes in.

So, fittingly, it all comes down to an unconventional ending — a sprint to the finish.

And we do mean sprint.

The tournament will reach its conclusion Monday with the contenders playing anywhere from seven to 11 holes.

Leading those contenders are Paul Casey and Ian Poulter, both at 7-under-par after Sunday’s completion of the third round followed by playing part of the final 18 holes.

Casey, 37 and from England, is looking for his second PGA Tour victory. In the past, he has played extensively on the European Tour, where he has recorded 13 championships.

With nine holes left to play, Casey said he has a special preparation plan.

“I ate a lot of cookies [Saturday] night,” he said, laughing. “Same thing [Sunday night].”

Turning serious, he added, “I’m very ready to win. I’m eager to win. I feel like I’m playing good golf, and there are no obstacles in the way.

“There is nothing that’s distracting me, which is a great feeling to have.”

Casey, at one point, had the outright lead — for about 90 seconds. Casey made a birdie on No. 9, but shortly after over on No. 7 Poulter did the same thing.

Poulter, 39, has 11 holes left to play. He was cruising and in command of the tournament by three shots at 9-under when he took a double bogey on No. 5 and a bogey on No. 6. On both holes, he hit into the water. That spate of bad shots and bad scores left him angry and frustrated.

Poulter is a two-time PGA Tour winner from England who also has 12 European Tour championships.

“You take your foot off the accelerator for one second,” he said, “and you find yourself completely out of position making a double-bogey.

“Yes, I was internally very angry.”

One stroke back of the two leaders at 6-under was Patrick Reed, 24 and last year’s winner of the World Golf Championships-Cadillac Championship at Trump National Doral.

“I’ve been scrambling and scrambling,” Reed said. “I’m just going to start fresh on Monday.”

Phil Mickelson also remains in the hunt but has little wiggle room at 4-under and three back of the leaders with 10 holes to finish.

Mickelson, with darkness setting in, left the course by opting to mark his putt on No. 9, an eight-footer for par. That putt will be his first stroke Monday morning.

“It’s fun to feel the pressure and to be in it,” said Mickelson, who is in a five-way tie for fourth.

Asked if he was in a good position, Mickelson quickly answered, “The best position is leading, obviously.”

Probably the biggest surprise of the day and maybe the tournament was Daniel Berger, a true Floridian born in Plantation who now lives in Jupiter.

Berger, 21, has a couple of top-10 finishes in 2015 as he seeks his first PGA Tour win at Honda.

He is another of the five tied at 4-under but only has seven more holes to make his move.

His approach to Monday: “It’s going to be a little seven-hole match for myself. Just stay patient and give myself some birdie chances and not think about it too much.”

Monday’s final mini-round will begin at 8 a.m. with general admission entrance free.

Leaderboard

Name

To Par

Thru

T1. Paul Casey

-7

9

T1. Ian Poulter

-7

7

2. Patrick Reed

-6

7

T4. Daniel Berger

-4

11

T4. Jeff Overton

-4

10

T6. Phil Mickelson

-4

8

T6. Brendan Steele

-4

8

T6. Russell Knox

-4

8

Final round: 8 a.m, GOLF

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