Akron, OH — Scott Parel had an opportunity to play collegiate golf but instead opted to study computer science at the University of Georgia, however Saturday afternoon, a 30-foot birdie putt on the 18th hole gave him a one shot lead three rounds into the Bridgestone SENIOR PLAYERS Championship.
Parel worked as a computer programmer and database administrator for 10 years following college and did not turn pro until 1996, when he was 31-years-old.
“My wife eventually pushed me into it,” Parel said of his decision to return to golf. “I complained about working in a cubical so long, she finally told me to get out and give this a shot.”
Parel shot the lowest round of the day, a 3-under par 67, one of just nine sub-par rounds on the day, which ended with the 30-foot birdie, something he cited made up for the short putts he missed throughout his round. He entered the day trailing Goosen by seven shots.
“I thought (Firestone Country Club) was pretty soft,” he explained. “The greens I felt were a little softer than what I thought they would be, so I was kind of surprised. I thought scoring behind me would be pretty good, so I don’t know what happened. This golf course, it will get your attention. You start hitting some wayward tee shots and you can get in some bad spots out here.”
Though Parel won twice last year on the PGA TOUR Champions, he has yet to get into the winner’s circle in 2019, finishing runner up on three separate occasions.
“You know, this game is funny,” said Parel. “I mean, I do feel like I’m due, I’ve been playing well, but that doesn’t always translate into winning. I’ve played well out here a few times and not won. So we’ll just see. I’ll just try to play like I did today, you know, and if it’s good enough, it’s good enough. If it’s not, this is still just a dream for me to be playing out here, so I would love to win.”
Goosen had an inauspicious start shooting four-over par on his opening four holes.
Recalling his start to the round, Goosen offered an expletive but when reminded by assembled media, chose his words a little more carefully.
Goosen ended up with a bad lie in the first bunker which resulted in bogey, three-putted on the second hole and then hit it into the water on the third hole.
“I started off pretty scruffy, let me put it that way,” Goosen stated. “It was a tough day out there for me. Everything seemed to go wrong. Get the wrong lies in the bunkers and all that kind of stuff, but I just kept fighting. I kept telling myself stay in this thing, ‘we still have another 18 tomorrow, it’s not the end of the world’. I just fought these last few holes.One shot off the lead with one round to go, not a bad place to be.”
Sunday will mark the third time this year that Goosen has entered the final round of a senior major inside the top five.
Both Kent Jones and Steve Stricker find themselves an additional shot behind the lead.
Jones led the tournament, for part of the third round but made mistakes which brought him into a tie for third.
“The course is just tough, so you start there, right,” asked Jones. “I thought the wind was tricky in the way it was blowing. It was a lot of crosswinds and it seemed like into it was all in and down it didn’t seem like it was helping much. It’s always the crosswinds I thought made it tricky. Then just the course is just tough.”
Something which has helped Jones throughout the event has been his chipping, which included a birdie effort on the par-4 10th hole.
Jones placed third in 2017 PGA TOUR Champions Q-School, and the grind from qualifying for status has continued
“Obviously it’s not easy to get out here, the Q-School is tough,” Jones said. “I had been working on my game. I come out, did some Monday qualifying out here and sort of played a few events and did well in those events, so that gave me a lot of confidence. Then when I went to the Q-School, you just have to play well for five spots. I had a good week and got through, then played well last year, so it’s been nice.”
Stricker had one birdie on his third round and though he told reporters that he did not want to watch the leaderboard, it was impossible not to just to see if the rest of the leaders were also coming back to the field.
“I got off to a poor start and then I saw the guys behind me got off to a poorer start, so you’re never out of it,” said Stricker. “You’ve just got to keep plugging, keep grinding away. You never know when you run off a few birdies and you get right back into it. It’s a challenging place, as you can see, and I just need to play better. Bottom line is I need to play like I did the first day tomorrow.”
Stricker’s third-round 73 was his second-highest round to par as a PGA TOUR Champions member.
With the story the first two days being low scores, the changing winds tightened up the leaderboard and seven golfers remain under par for the tournament.
Similar conditions are expected tomorrow, which could make an already difficult golf course all the more interesting.
“I thought today the wind was a little difficult to judge,” Parel said. “You know, they were supposed to be southwest and west southwest. I swear, sometimes it felt like it was north. It was really swirling. I know with the big trees that makes it difficult. So, I mean, you really have to have a good idea of what the wind’s doing out here because you don’t want to put yourself in a bad spot.”
Bridgestone SENIOR PLAYERS Championship Third Round Leaderboard
1. Scott Parel -5
2. Retief Goosen -4
T3. Brandt Jobe -3
T3. Kent Jones -3
T3. Steve Stricker -3
6. Tim Petrovic -2
7. Jay Haas -1
T8. Ken Duke E
T8. Steve Flesch E
T8. Colin Montgomerie E
T8. Vijay Singh E
Duke making most of opportunity
Ken Duke was not even slated to play at Firestone Country Club, in fact he was scheduled to be down the list of alternates, but a last-second withdrawal from Fred Funk put him in the field where he currently is tied for eighth at even par.
Duke’s lone experience playing Firestone Country Club was the 2013 WGC-Bridgestone Invitational when he tied for 65th at +13.
“It’s a totally different golf course than it is now, and I did play nine holes early in the week, but this is a golf course, you have to be rested, and if you, there’s a lot of hills here, you’ve got a lot of tough shots,” he said. “I just played nine holes (before the tournament), my caddie did a great job of preparing where we got to hit it, and we were just hoping to get in, to be honest with you.”
Duke came to Akron on Monday, saw the course Tuesday and work on Wednesday with the intent of getting used to the greens and turf.
Funk’s withdrawal was bittersweet for Duke given that the two are friends, but Duke has tried to make the most of it.
“There’s been times where three or four guys drop out just because you don’t know how they’re feeling, what they’re aching, if they flew here, had a bad back, if they woke up and had a bad back, or got sick, food poisoning,” said Duke. “There’s always something, it’s just a class guy, Fred Funk is, that didn’t start and withdraw two or three holes later, gave the spot up to myself, knew that I was here. He is just a classy guy that did that instead of starting.”
For Duke, he is tied for eighth at even par and goes out four groups before the final twosome tees off, so if he can post a lower number, it could put him in a good position.
“I played pretty solid all week, and just hadn’t got away from me,” Duke said. “I’ve had some chances to make two or three under par a round, which goes a long way on a course like this, but looking forward to tomorrow in good position,”
Shot of the day
Billy Mayfair holed out for eagle on the par-4 ninth hole, hitting a 9-iron 155 yards. Mayfair shot an even-par 70 and is tied for 36th.
“It was downwind today, it has been into the wind all week,” he said. “I hit a really good 3-wood off the tee and had about 155 yards. I hit a 9-iron and trying to actually play it a little left of the hole for the angle. I might have pushed it just a little bit, but the ball went right at it. I couldn’t see it because it was over the bunker but I knew it was close. I heard the people and then they erupted like it went in. I guess the ball went left of the hole, kicked right and went in.”
Thus far in 2019, every single PGA TOUR Champions event has been won by a player who previously won on Tour. There has never been a season on the PGA TOUR Champions without a first-time winner… Jay Haas is in solo seventh place at 1-under par and not only would be the oldest player in PGA TOUR Champions history to win but with his son Bill tied for third in the PGA TOUR’s John Deere Classic, they would become the second father/son combo to win on the same day (David Duval, 1999 PLAYERS Championship; Bob Duval, 1999 Emerald Coast Classic)… Michael Bradley shot a 3-under par 67 in a scorecard which included nine birdies, four pars, four bogeys and a double-bogey…The par-4 fourth hole proved to be most difficult with a 4.513 stroke average and no birdies.
Colston Cooper also contributed to this report