Virtual PGA round 3: Hagen’s harrowing fourth

MAMARONECK, UNITED STATES: Davis Love III of the US tips his hat as the crowd goes wild after his chip shot to the 12th green 17 August during the final round of the PGA Championship at Winged Foot. Love won the championship, finishing 11-under-par. AFP PHOTO/Jon LEVY (Photo credit should read JON LEVY/AFP via Getty Images)
MAMARONECK, UNITED STATES: Davis Love III of the US tips his hat as the crowd goes wild after his chip shot to the 12th green 17 August during the final round of the PGA Championship at Winged Foot. Love won the championship, finishing 11-under-par. AFP PHOTO/Jon LEVY (Photo credit should read JON LEVY/AFP via Getty Images) /
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On a single hole at TPC Harding Park, the five-time PGA champion’s domination comes to a crashing end

Eighteen holes from the finish of the 2020 Virtual PGA Championship, 10 players are grouped within five strokes of the lead. And that lead is no longer held by Walter Hagen.

A pair of back-to-back winners, Brooks Koepka (2018-19) and Denny Shute (1936-37), wound up at 14-under par 202 after 54 holes. That was one stroke ahead of 18 and 36-hole leader Hagen, who ran afoul of the fourth hole and came home in 1-over 73.

The normally docile 606 yard par 5, which had played under par as most  long holes do the first  two rounds, rose up and smote the field Saturday, exacting an average of 5.13 strokes per competitor. That made it the day’s third toughest hole. It was especially unforgiving with Hagen, who came to the fourth tee protecting a lead he had held since the tournament’s start.

Hagen pushed his drive to the right on the dogleg left, and found his ball stymied against the trunk of one of a large tree. Declaring the ball unplayable, he took a penalty drop but punched his third shot back across the fairway into more trees between the fourth and fifth fairways. Hagen hacked out of those, stubbed his approach into the front right bunker, blasted out indifferently, then three-putted from 20 feet. That saddled him with an unthinkable quadruple bogey nine.

When Koepka, playing alongside Hagen and Shute, made his third consecutive birdie on the same hole, he suddenly shot to -14, a stunning four strokes ahead of both Hagen and Shute.

Koerpka’s lead didn’t last, but only because Shute got hot. The 1936-37 champion staged a rally of his own, birdieing the fifth, sixth and seventh holes to move within one. When Koepka bogeyed the 467 yard par four 14th the duo was tied, and that’s the way they finished the round.

Hagen remained four behind through 15 holes, but he caught fire at round’s end, recording birdies on each of the final three holes to crawl back within a stroke at -13.

But Sunday’s finish will not be merely a three-way struggle. Three darkhorses came from well off the pace Saturday to give themselves a chance.

Playing in back-to-back groups, 1916 and 1919  PGA champion Jim Barnes as well as 1997 PGA champion Davis Love III both fired rounds of 63 to move into a tie for third, three behind Koepka and Shute. They were joined there by 1955 PGA champion Doug Ford, who recorded a 67 Saturday.

Barnes was virtually perfect on the front nine Saturday, reeling off seven birdies and two pars. Love’s rally was keyed by the  back-to-back par five 9th and 10th holes, which he navigated in three-under.

One more stroke behind at nine-under was a foursome including 1962 PGA champion Gary Player along with Arnold Palmer, who was seeking to make the virtual tournament his first PGA title. Jerry  Barber and Steve Elkington were also tied at minus-nine.

Three-time PGA champion Gene Sarazen shot 66 to work his way up to eight-under, six behind Koepka and Shute.

Despite the leaders’ low numbers, Harding Park played difficult Saturday. The field average was 72.51 strokes, the week’s highest. Only 22 players in the 68-player field came home under par, while 38 joined Hagen above par for the day.

Those 38 included some of the game’s immortals. Pre-tournament favorites Byron Nelson, Tiger Woods and Jack Nicklaus all failed to make any sort of move toward the leaders, effectively finishing their title hopes.

Nelson’s play was especially disappointing. Coming off his Friday 77, the 1940  and 1945 PGA champion made three early bogeys and turned in a 76,  That left him at eight-over for the week, 22 shots behind the co-leaders.

Nicklaus and Woods fared only slightly better. Woods failed to build on his Friday 65, turning in an indifferent 74 that left him13 back at minus one. Nicklaus shot 73 and was also one-under. That was good only for a tie for 25th place.

Here are the cards of the three leaders plus other notables in the field:

Hole                       1 2 3   4 5 6   7 8 9    10 11 12   13 14 15   16 17 18   — Total

Par                         4 4 3   5 4 4   4 3 5      5   3   5      4   4    4     4   3   4      — 72

Shute                    4 4 3   5 3 3   3 3 5      4   3   5      4   4   3      4   2   4      — 68

Koepka                 4 3 2   4 4 3   3 2 5      5   3   5      4   3   3      4   3   3      — 69

Hagen                   4 4 3   9 3 3   3 3 4      6   3   5      4   3   4      3   2   3      –73

Here is a full list of 54-hole scores.

Player                                   1  – 2  – 3 -Total

Brooks Koepka                  67-66-69-202

Denny Shute                      67-67-68-202

Walter Hagen                    63-67-73-203

Jim Barnes                          70-72-63-205

Doug Ford                           69-69-67-205

Davis Love III                      73-69-63-205

Arnold Palmer                   69-67-71-207

Gary Player                         67-72-68-207

Steve Elkington                 72-67-68-207

Jerry Barber                       66-74-67-207

Gene Sarazen                    71-71-66-208

Leo Diegel                           68-67-74-209

Sam Snead                          68-68-73-209

Paul Runyan                       67-69-73-209

Walter Burkemo               68-68-73-209

Jim Ferrier                           72-65-72-209

Ben Hogan                          70-71-68-209

Chick Harbert                     70-70-71-211

Jeff Sluman                        72-70-71-213

Tommy Armour                 68-73-72-213

Nick Price                            70-73-70-213

Don January                       69-70-74-213

Phil Mickelson                   75-67-72-214

Bobby Nichols                   74-68-72-214

Jason Day                            67-74-74-215

Tiger Woods                       76-65-74-215

Jack Nicklaus                      73-69-73-215

David Graham                   71-71-73-215

Jim Turnesa                        70-73-72-215

Rory McIlroy                      75-71-69-215

David Toms                         70-78-68-216

Jay Hebert                          71-70-75-216

Jack Burke Jr.                     66-76-74-216

Vijay Singh                          73-69-74-216

Henry Picard                      73-73-70-216

Padraig Harrington          76-70-71-217

Vic Ghezzi                           69-74-74-217

Lionel Hebert                     73-74-70-217

Ray Floyd                             70-71-76-217

Martin Kaymer                  75-73-69-217

Dave Stockton                   74-69-74-217

Al Geiberger                      74-70-73-217

Jason Dufner                     69-76-73-218

Keegan Bradley                72-76-70-218

Larry Nelson                       74-71-73-218

Dow Finsterwald              75-68-76-219

Lee Trevino                        72-73-75-220

Julius Boros                        72-70-78-220

Bob Rosburg                      75-73-72-220

Bob Hamilton                     73-74-73-220

John Mahaffey                 78-69-74-221

Hal Sutton                           74-72-76-222

Payne Stewart                  75-71-76-222

Rich Beem                           72-74-77-223

Dave Marr                           74-77-72-223

Jimmy Walker                    71-75-77-223

Chandler Harper               72-74-78-224

Byron Nelson                     71-77-76-224

Hubert Green                    73-76-75-224

John Daly                             79-72-73-224

Shaun Micheel                  79-77-69-225

Johnny Revolta                 77-77-72-226

Bob Tway                            73-74-79-226

Paul Azinger                       77-76-74-227

Mark Brooks                      79-75-76-230

Lanny Wadkins                  81-74-75-230

Y E Yang                              78-74-79-231

Wayne Grady                    77-73-82-232