Golf

Rickie Fowler opens four-shot lead at the Honda Classic

Rickie Fowler tees off on the third tee during the third round of the Honda Classic golf tournament, Saturday, Feb. 25, 2017, in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.
Rickie Fowler tees off on the third tee during the third round of the Honda Classic golf tournament, Saturday, Feb. 25, 2017, in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla. AP

Finally, a name with some luster attached to it atop the Honda Classic leaderboard.

Rickie Fowler made his move to the top Saturday by shooting a 5-under-par 65 on the Champion Course at PGA National Resort & Spa in Palm Beach Gardens to give him a 13-under 197 total.

The consistent play by Fowler through three rounds, including five birdies and no bogeys on Saturday, gives him a somewhat comfortable four-shot lead over Tyrrell Hatton of England, yet another one of those lesser-known players who have been trying to make themselves known in this tournament.

When Fowler was asked what it would mean to add the Honda trophy to his other trophies, he said with a laugh: “It would join a small collection.”

Then, he seriously added, “Ultimately, I would like to be getting the trophy Sunday on the 18th green, but there is a lot of golf to be played.”

Fans should bring sunglasses for the final round because they are pretty much guaranteed Fowler will be attired, as he usually is, in the bright orange of alma mater Oklahoma State as he tries to win his fourth PGA Tour title and increase his career money winnings from $24,219,157.

And how will Fowler approach the final round?

“I know I go out with a lead, and really, a lead around here is nice, but I’ve still got to take care of my business and plot my way around this golf course,” he said. “Mistakes are going to happen and potentially bogeys will happen when you miss it in the wrong spot. But I’m going to stick to the same game plan.”

Asked if that four-shot advantage is enough, Fowler said with a smile, “I’d like to have 10 … or more.”

Fowler praised Hatton, his closest pursuer and mainly a European Tour player who has not won on the PGA Tour.

“He’s a great ball-striker and good guy,” Fowler said.

In addition to the three PGA Tour victories, Fowler, 28, has an admirable but non-winning record in majors by collecting six top-10 finishes. In 2014, he was second in the U.S. Open and British Open, third in the PGA Championship and fifth in the Masters.

Hatton said that he wants to take Sunday’s round in stride.

“Whatever happens, happens,” Hatton said. “I can only control what I do and see how it goes.”

There was a five-way tie for third, six strokes back at 203, with Emiliano Grillo (65), Sean O’Hair (65), Gary Woodland (66), Martin Kaymer (68) and Wesley Bryan (72).

Making a strong move on Saturday was Miamian Ryan Blaum, who won’t win the tournament but could pick up some pretty good pocket change for a PGA Tour rookie at age 33.

Blaum barely advanced to the final two rounds on Friday by landing exactly on the 36-hole cut line of even-par 140.

On Saturday, he shot a 5-under 65 and came close to making two holes-in-one, leaving the ball 12 inches below the hole on the 226-yard seventh and just six inches away on the 179-yard 15th when he blocked his shot “but it worked out just fine.”

In addition, on No. 3, he improved from a bogey on Friday, when he hit a ball into a tree and it did not come down, to an eagle on Saturday.

Somewhat strangely, having lived in South Florida most of his life, he had not played the Champion Course until this week.

“The confidence is good right now,” said Blaum, who was born in Coral Gables and attended Westminster Christian. “Being back in Florida is the best. I really like this warm weather.

“This round was certainly a lot better than the Friday round.”

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