PORT ST. LUCIE, Florida (AP) — Shigeki Maruyama and Fredrik Jacobsen took advantage of a Daniel Chopra slide Sunday to share a three-way lead at the rain-delayed Ginn sur Mer Classic.
Maruyama holed out from the sand for eagle at the par-5 16th to get into a three-way tie for the lead, Jacobsen moved steadily up the leaderboard all day, and Chopra simply unraveled on the back nine Sunday at the Ginn sur Mer Classic – setting the stage for a potentially wild finish Monday morning at Tesoro Club.
Play was suspended for the day by darkness with Maruyama, Jacobsen and Chopra all at 18 under, two shots ahead of clubhouse leader Dicky Pride.
“They’re never easy. They’re never supposed to be easy,” Chopra said. “And if I do come out on top, I’m glad it was this way. You obviously treasure it so much more when you’ve got to really fight for it and work for it, and I’ll have to do that tomorrow morning.”
Momentum-wise, it’s advantage Maruyama and Jacobsen, who were on the rise.
Logistically, it’s clearly advantage Chopra. When final-round play resumes at 8 a.m. Monday, he’ll start on the par-5 16th hole – the easiest on the course and one he’s birdied three times already.
“I don’t want to worry about what anyone else is doing,” said Jacobsen, who, like Maruyama, will start on the par-3 17th.
Chopra had a four-shot lead when he made the turn Sunday afternoon, having just tapped in a 2-footer for a birdie that pushed him to 20 under. But two bogeys in his first four holes on the back side gave his closest pursuers a chance.
Sean O’Hair was alone in fifth at 14 under with two holes remaining, while Ken Duke, Cameron Beckman and Charlie Wi were all knotted in sixth place another shot back.
Bob Estes and Briny Baird, tied for second behind Chopra when the third round ended Sunday morning, were both 3 over through 15 holes of the final round and fell six shots off the lead.
It’s already been a long week, for a variety of factors: Players aren’t yet familiar with the course, there’s been a lift-clean-and-place allowance because of the spongy conditions, and long hikes between many greens and tees.
Simply put, this was as much of a mental test as it was a physical one.
“I don’t know if I can say it much better than that,” said Pride, who matched the low round of a week with a 64 that got him to 16 under – capped by four straight birdies.
Chopra’s threesome needed nearly 3 hours to play the front nine Sunday.
They would have gotten there, too, if it wasn’t for Chopra’s 98-yard pitch to within 2 feet. He tapped in for birdie – and a four-shot lead – to reach the midpoint of his round 2 hours, 59 minutes after teeing off.
But as the day wore on, Chopra’s lead simply vanished.
“Brutal,” Chopra said.
Baird’s chances took a hit on his first final-round hole; his tee ball sailed out-of-bounds and he made double bogey. Estes, who led after 18 and 36 holes, also fizzled with three early bogeys.
Meanwhile, Maruyama – who came into the week at No. 137 on the money list and needed a big finish – started moving. His final round opened with three straight birdies.
“The golf course got a lot longer and I struggled a little bit,” said Maruyama, who hasn’t won on tour since 2003.
Those struggles didn’t show, and he’ll be in the top 125 on the money list – in position to earn full playing privileges in 2008 – after finishing Monday.
The third round didn’t end until 10:39 a.m., and the fourth round wasn’t started until noon so workers could try to make some waterlogged holes playable.
No, Tesoro Club was not fit for man, beast or John Daly.
He withdrew for the sixth time this season after a 6-over 79 in the third round, without citing a reason. Daly was 4 over, comfortably in last place, and bogeyed three of the four holes he played.