JOHNS CREEK — The golfer who hoists the Wanamaker Trophy on Sunday evening might earn it by just surviving the final four holes at Atlanta Athletic Club’s Highland Course.
Those holes should play a huge role in the finish of the PGA Championship after showing their teeth late Saturday in the third round.
Eight of the 19 players tied for 13th or better made a bogey on one of the final four holes Saturday.
Luke Donald, Jim Furyk and John Senden all bogeyed two of the final holes. Donald and Furyk both had a double-bogey on No. 18. Furyk actually hit into the water twice, before hitting a near-perfect wedge shot and saving a double-bogey with a six-foot putt.
“These last four holes are going to decide this golf tournament,” Masters winner Charl Schwartzel said.Jason Dufner and Scott Verplank, however, weren’t bothered much by the final four holes. Both made multiple birdies in that stretch.
“To birdie 18, obviously you pick up at least a half a stroke on the field,” said David Toms, who birdied his final hole of the round.
Toms slid into contention with a 5-under-par 65, which was the best round of the day.
Toms, who won the PGA Championship at the Atlanta Athletic Club in 2001, moved into a tie for eighth at 2 under for the tournament. The 44-year-old is five shots behind co-leaders Brendan Steele and Dufner.
Toms’ 65 included a 30 on the treacherous back nine. He made an eagle on No. 12, one of just six third-round eagles. Toms followed with birdies on Nos. 13 and 14 and added a long birdie putt on No. 18 to cap his round. The birdie on No. 14 came on a shot from a greenside bunker.
“I could have made bogey, double (bogey) pretty easily,” Toms said. “To hole a bunker shot and make birdie, that was a bonus.”
First-round leader Steve Stricker remains in contention after shooting a third-round 69.
He remains three shots off the lead at 4 under.
Stricker led the tournament after a first-round 63 tied the major championship scoring record. But the top-ranked American in the world fell back into the pack with a 74 on Friday.
After back-to-back bogeys on Nos. 6 and 7 in the third round, Stricker played steady the rest of the round. He made a birdie on No. 12, and then he went on the make par on the difficult final four holes, including a long, par-saving putt on No. 18.
“It was a grind out there,” Stricker said. “I held it together. I was patient, and I’m just glad I was able to salvage par on that last hole.”
Schwartzel will enter the final round in contention to win his second major championship in 2011.
The South African shot a 66 on Saturday to move to 2 under for the tournament, and he is five shots out of the lead in a tie for eighth place.
Schwartzel played a bogey-free round Saturday, making three on the back nine. In the first two rounds, he made four bogeys and three double bogeys.
“The course is just very penalizing,” he said. “(On Saturday), I just maybe played a little more, I don’t want to say more conservative, but more clever.”
Schwartzel is one of just 11 players to make the cut in all four majors this year.