POSTED: 6:55 p.m. HST, Jan 8, 2011
LAST UPDATED: 7:57 p.m. HST, Jan 8, 2011
KAPALUA, Maui >> Robert Garrigus rolled in a 57-foot eagle putt today to join Jonathan Byrd and Steve Stricker atop the $5.6 million Hyundai Tournament of Champions leaderboard at 18-under 201.
The long-hitting Garrigus began the day with a double bogey, but erased that early mistake with the only eagle of the day at the famed closing hole of the Plantation Course. Garrigus shot a 69 to draw even with fellow Americans Stricker (65) and Byrd (67) at the opening event on the PGA Tour.
The last American to win this winners-only tournament was Jim Furyk in 2001. That drought is likely to end tomorrow because the top five golfers through three rounds reside in the United States. Carl Pettersson shot a ho-hum 71 and is three shots back at 15-under 204. Matt Kuchar fired a 66 and is alone in fifth at 14-under 205.
U.S. Open champion Graeme McDowell (68) is tied for sixth with Bill Haas (69) at 12-under 207.
With a stiff Kona wind greeting the golfers in today's third round, it seemed unlikely anyone would go as low as Stricker and Kuchar. But thanks to five consecutive birdies on the back nine, Stricker shot to the top of the leaderboard before being caught by Byrd and Garrigus.
"The eagle on 18 sure was sweet," Garrigus said. "I'm thinking if it had not caught the hole it would have been off the green. That was a nice way to end the day. That was really nice."
Kuchar produced a nice round as well, including four straight birdies on the front nine. When he began his round, he didn't think anyone would shoot 7 under in the difficult conditions.
"I started with driver, 3-wood on the first hole, so no way did I think I would go that low," said Kuchar, who led all money winners in 2010 "Oh man, it was tough. I was not expecting a round like this today."
Stricker is trying for his first win in Hawaii despite pocketing almost $3 million between the two opening events on tour.
"Teeing off, you didn't really know what to expect because the wind had flipped around," Stricker said. "I think getting off to a good start was key and I just kept giving myself birdie chances all the way around."