About the only thing hotter than the weather in north Texas the past three days has been the play of England’s Justin Rose at the Fort Worth Invitational — and that’s saying a lot considering the 100-degree temperatures and windless conditions that have the area sweltering like it was August rather than May.
It will take a really hot round to catch Rose after he fired a 4-under-par 66 on Saturday to finish at 14-under 196 and build a four-stroke lead after three rounds of play in searing heat at the venerable Colonial Country Club.
Emiliano Grillo of Argentina (with a 69 on Saturday while paired with Rose) and American Brooks Koepka (67) are at 10 under and in serious chase mode in the event the legendary Ben Hogan won five times.
Rose has been virtually flawless over the first three rounds, with just three bogeys over 54 holes on the traditional, pecan-tree-lined layout on the banks of the Trinity River a mile southwest of downtown Fort Worth.
Rose, the 2013 U.S. Open winner at Merion and a Gold medalist in the 2016 Rio Olympics, began Saturday’s round with a one-shot advantage over Grillo and was three shots ahead of Koepka and RBC Heritage winner Satoshi Kodaira.
Rose birdied his first three holes on Saturday and was 4 under after six holes. He played the rest of the round in even par, with a birdie on the 11th and a bogey on the par-3 16th.
“I’m happy with the way I played,” Rose said. “I enjoyed the day out there, and it was nice to get going early and build up that lead. No one seemed to do too much behind me today, so I felt like it was in my hands to get as far ahead as I could.”
Rose is in the driver’s seat for his ninth PGA Tour victory and second of the season, following his come-from-behind win in the World Golf Championships-HSBC Champions in Shanghai, China in October.
“I kind of struggled towards the end of the round because it was so hot out there and I was battling the golf course and my concentration,” Rose admitted. “It was tough to finish things off in that heat. But all in all, a good day’s work.”
Koepka posted a double-bogey seven on the par-5 11th hole on Saturday for the second time in three rounds, and those four strokes are all that keep the reigning U.S. Open champion from challenging Rose for the lead.
“I felt like I played okay — I’m putting very well,” Koepka said. “No. 11 has got my number this week — I don’t know what’s going on because it’s a par 5, and I need to be eating that up. I just need stick to what I’m doing. It’s been working really well so far.
“I need to get off to a good start tomorrow on this golf course. If I can get to 2 or 3 under after six holes then I can be right there. Anytime you can be within three stokes with nine holes to play then you have a chance.”
Grillo had a real chance to put some pressure on Rose but bogeyed the 15th hole and missed birdie putts from eight, 16 and 10 feet, respectively, on the final three holes.
Canadian rookie Corey Conners (who fired a round-best-tying 63 on Saturday, with birdies on five of the final six holes), Jon Rahm of Spain (64), Louis Oosthuizen of South Africa (64), plus Americans J.T. Poston (65) and Ryan Armour (66) are tied for fourth, six shots off Rose’s lead.
“I really had the putter rolling,” Conners said. “Gave myself a nice look on 10 to get it started and rolled it in. Two nice sand saves on 11 and 12 after I kind of short-sided myself to save pars, and then a few birdies in a row. Hit a few quality shots, and when I was just off with an iron shot I rolled in nice putts. It was a lot of fun.”
Ted Potter Jr. (63), Brian Harman (64), Derek Fathauer (66), Kevin Tway (68) and Ben Crane (68) are tied for ninth at 7 under.
Jordan Spieth, with an even-par 70, is tied for 38th at 3 under, while defending champion Kevin Kisner (71) is tied for 67th at 1 over.
This is the second time in three weeks on Tour that the third-round leader slept on at least a four-shot advantage on Saturday night. Two weeks ago at The Players Championship, Webb Simpson led by seven shots after 54 holes before winning by four shots.
“You are kind of caught between going out and trying to play great and not making mistakes,” Rose said of playing with the big lead. “For me it’s going to be about one shot at a time and I will need to make birdies.
“I feel like there is a score in this golf course, so I have to go out and expect the chasing pack to play well. I don’t think I can shoot even par and rest on my laurels. I have to move forward, and I will be trying to do what I’ve been doing the past three days.”
–Field Level Media