With some wacky weather forecasted, plus the fact that a pair of short hitters had won in each of the last two years, the advantage for the bomb-and-gouger was supposed to be reduced at the Butterfield Bermuda Championship. Naturally, one of if not the longest players in the field, Canada’s Taylor Pendrith, is the solo leader after 54 holes.
Pendrith has reached 17 under doing exactly what wasn’t supposed to work this week—hitting it as far as possible, wedging it on and making some putts. Turns out, that strategy might work anywhere, as the 30-year-old backed up his second-round 61 with a Saturday 65, a score that appeared out of the question when he began the day one over through six holes. A birdie at the par-5 seventh proved to be the jolt of energy his round needed, with Pendrith going on to make six more to grab a three-shot lead over Danny Lee heading into Sunday.
“It was a tough mental day to kind of stick with it and just kind of know that I should make some birdies at some point,” Pendrith said.
The birdies most certainly came, none bigger than the one at the beastly 235-yard par-3 16th, which featured a treacherous back left pin on Saturday. No matter for Pendrith, who safely played to the front right portion of the green and made a mile-long putt (no Shot Tracker this week, so we’re estimating) that could prove to be massive come Sunday evening.
“Yeah, that was a bonus. I was just trying to put good speed on it, and it was perfect speed. Just kind of fell right at the end, and it was great to see that go in.”
Pendrith will now enter some unfamiliar territory, having never finished higher than T-11 in just 12 career PGA Tour starts. He’s no stranger to winning as a pro, though, with a pair of victories on the PGA Tour Canada in 2019. Fortunately, outside of Lee, a number of the guys chasing Pendrith are entering unfamiliar territory, too.
“There will be some nerves for everybody in the top-10, I think, going into tomorrow,” he said. “Just going to try to focus on what I can control and just go play golf and try to battle the wind.”
Relatable: Lucas Herbert noticed something was off with his driver on the range prior to Saturday’s round, which caused him to feel a little uneasy. Who among us hasn’t hit a few squirrely ones on the range and thought “it must be the driver, right?”
Not relatable: It actually was the driver, so Herbert replaced the clubhead with one of the extras in his locker, went out and shot a six-under 65 to get into contention. Tour pros, they’re absolutely nothing like us!
“We were hitting a few on the range, sort of hit probably … I hit pretty much most of the drives I wanted to hit, I was just kind of hitting a couple low ones,” Herbert said. “Obviously sort of get ready for playing on a windy day. Hit one that felt weird, and I hit another one that felt weird. I looked at the driver and it sort of looked a bit suspicious. Yeah, with sort of probably 12 minutes until we teed off, it was back to the locker, get a new driver head. Luckily, we had spares. Had to run with that on the fly, but it turned out all right.”
Sure did. Herbert, who just picked up his second European Tour win at the Irish Open in July, is four back of Pendrith’s lead, all this after telling himself “we’re in for a long week” after just three holes on Thursday morning. The 25-year-old Aussie was two over at the time, and the rain was coming down sideways. “I’ll be heading back to the mainland on Friday,” Herbert said he thought to himself.
Things have since escalated quickly, as Herbert is now in legitimate striking distance of a PGA Tour win. He wouldn’t mind a little more of that weather to roll in on Sunday, which could bring everybody back into the mix.
“The harder it is, the better, I think. I’ve always enjoyed a good test of golf and I think, yeah, the conditions make it tough tomorrow, could make it a bit of fun.”
It looks like Herbert will definitely get his wish, though the question now is whether or not lightning will be a factor, thus halting play. As of now, there is an 80-percent chance of rain and thunderstorms are expected, which is why the PGA Tour has moved up tee times and is sending players off two tees on Sunday. (The final threesome goes off at 8:57 a.m. EDT and Golf Channel will broadcast the final round live from 11 a.m.-2 p.m.)
Should the lightning and thunder hold off, though, players will not only have to play through the rain but the wind, too, with 15- to 25-mph winds expected. Simply put, weather will be a factor in the final round. The hope is that it doesn’t push play to Monday, which no one wants.
An injury and some poor form have seen Danny Lee fade into the background a bit on the PGA Tour, which makes his strong week so far feel a bit out of nowhere. At 14 under, Lee is in solo second, in prime position to claim his second tour title, the last coming at the 2015 Greenbrier.
Lee doesn’t see his place on the leader board as unusual, at least judging off the way he answered a question about having “low expectations” coming into the Bermuda Championship.
“I worked my ass off last month,” Lee said. “Getting on the plane all the way to [come] over here, I was kind of expecting to do something great, and I need to. So I didn’t come here just to play golf. I came over here to play some good, really good golf.
“I’m doing it right now, so it’s good to see that happening right now. I just need one more day like this.”
One more good day would prove incredibly clutch for Lee, who has just three starts left on a minor medical extension. Safe to say the only expectations he could afford to have would be high ones.