While this will be the first time since that occasion Rodgers has held the lead through three rounds, those with good memories will remember his closest brush with a maiden PGA Tour title came in this very event four years ago when, after charging through the field over the weekend with rounds of 61 and 62, he narrowly lost out in a play-off to Charles Howell III.
With that past history here in mind, and arriving in Georgia with some great momentum on the back of a really solid Fall series, it is no surprise to see the Stanford grad in this position now, and the question is can he finally bag that first tour win.
From my mind, while it may not be easy, the answer is ‘yes’. Since opening up at the Plantation Course with a steady 69, Rodgers has really found a groove at the Seaside Course, posting rounds of 65 and 64, with his approach play, normally his weak link, really firing.
Ranking second for the week in this department at the host course, fifth from tee to green and sixth in putting, everything is in great order. Therefore, while the 30-year-old will surely need something in the mid-60s again at worst to triumph, we know with where his game his at, and his record on the track, that he has this in his locker.
This event has been great for first-time winners over the years too and it feels that having served his dues, Rodgers’ time has come, and with five of the last six 54-hole leaders here going on to triumph, I am happy to chance him to improve those stats today.
While I like Rodgers’ chances, we mustn’t forget of course that he has company at the top of the leaderboard in the shape of Martin and, unlike Rodgers, the 35-year-old does have a PGA Tour trophy on his CV having landed the Shriners back in 2014.
Unlike Rodgers, though, Martin came into this week having struggled so far on his return to the Tour this season and it may just be that he feels the heat more today than his fellow co-leader with so much at stake in regards to his goal of keeping his card and indeed getting more starts in the New Year courtesy of a big finish here.
While Martin was solid for the best part of yesterday, it will be a worry he only found six fairways on the day and a scrappy bogey on 18 to close will not have done much to help calm the nerves either. Furthermore, a nil-from-three conversion rate when holding the 54-lead on tour offers little encouragement.
To be fair to Martin the most recent of those near misses came at the Corales last spring, where having held the lead through all of the first three rounds he shot 70 on Sunday to just miss out on a play off, which, again with so much on the line was no disgrace. Ultimately, though, he is not for me today.
While the focus will be on the two leaders, clearly this is far from a two-horse race and although the event has favoured 54 hole leaders over recent years, Rodgers himself showed us in 2018 what is possible here on a Sunday if you find a low one from off the pace.
With that in mind, in the hunt for a second selection, let’s be honest there are a host of players who could make a run and trying to find the one who will is tough. The trio who start one back on 13-under and therefore are in theory best placed to take advantage are Adam Svensson, Sahith Theegala and Andrew Putnam.
Of the three Svensson, who will play alongside the two leaders in the final three ball courtesy of a best of the day 62 on Saturday, has looked shaky whenever in contention to date on the PGA Tour and if you add in the traditional concern of ‘following up a low one’, it is enough to put me off.
Putnam who, like Rodgers, has been producing some great stuff this autumn, unexpectedly struggled with his approach play on Saturday, while Theegala has also looked ragged from tee to green at times this week and has relied heavily on his putter and at the shortish odds I will again pass on this pair.
Turning to those on 12- and 11-under, the in-form duo of Brian Harman and Taylor Montgomery are the most obvious picks, however based on just the number in contention here and allowing for the fact that we already have one short odds play onside with Rodgers, I would rather chance for my second play someone at bigger odds with an each-way safety net, and the one who catches the eye is veteran KEVIN STREELMAN who starts two back.
A two-time winner on tour, Streelman has shown over the years that he has a fondness for short coastal tracks with his record at Hilton Head and Pebble Beach particularly impressive, while his second win came at the par 70 TPC River highlands where he memorably finished with seven straight birdies to clinch victory.
After a strong Friday on the Seaside Course, the 44-year-old regressed with his long game on Saturday but he closed strongly with two birdies in his final three holes, so will head into Sunday in good spirits, and I am happy to risk him at the odds.
Posted at 0935 GMT on 20/11/22