A third consecutive rain-plagued round at the Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial ended Saturday with Kevin Na at the top of the leader board.
But with his lead down to one stroke after a third-round 69, Na understands he has a lot of work left undone in Sunday’s final round before he can be fitted for a plaid jacket.
Na, at 11-under par for the tournament, leads European Ryder Cup stalwart Ian Poulter by a single shot and has three major champions, along with three past Colonial champions, lurking within five strokes heading into the players’ last trip around “Hogan’s Alley.”
So the strategy is simple, Na explained, after draining a go-ahead birdie putt on the 17th green moments after Poulter missed a near-identical attempt.
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“You’ve got to shoot the lowest number on Sunday,” Na said. “I can see someone shooting 61 or 62. It is out there. But it’s hiding somewhere.”
The front-runner who finds it will win a Colonial title, whether that is Na, Poulter (10 under), Charley Hoffman (9 under) or any of 13 other players within five strokes of the lead.
That group includes Fort Worth resident Rory Sabbatini (7 under), Masters champion Jordan Spieth (6 under), defending Colonial champ Adam Scott (6 under) and Vijay Singh (6 under), a member of the World Golf Hall of Fame who could become the oldest winner in Colonial history (52) with a timely Sunday surge.
Poulter, a stylish dresser who would have the solo lead if not for his four-putt for double bogey from 20 feet at No. 10, also has begun plotting his Sunday strategy. On and off the course.
“I can always deal with another plaid jacket in my closet,” Poulter said. “So it will look just fine with my outfit.”
Regardless of how the final round ends, it will begin early. For a second consecutive day, PGA Tour officials will start play at 7 a.m., with golfers in threesomes and teeing off at No. 1 and No. 10. The leaders will begin their rounds at the first tee.
Barring rain delays, the Colonial champion projects to be crowned before the start of CBS’ final-round telecast, which will be shown on a tape-delayed basis (2-5 p.m., KTVT/Ch. 11).
But with a forecast that includes a 90 percent chance of overnight and morning rains, golfers left the course Saturday bracing for the possibility of a long Sunday work day.
“Hopefully, we can get some golf in,” Poulter said. “I think it was a bonus to get done [Saturday].”
When things were done, Na emerged for a second consecutive day with a solo lead. He got there by balancing three birdies and two bogeys, with the final birdie coming on a 14-foot putt at No. 17. Na buried his putt moments after Poulter missed a 15-footer from a similar line.
Ironically, Na said Poulter’s putt hurt more than it helped after he had chosen his line.
“His putt didn’t break,” said Na, who envisioned some right-to-left movement in discussions with his caddie. “But I trusted my read so I played a little outside right. It turned in nice to the hole.”
That putt stands as the only stroke separating Na and Poulter, who will join Hoffman in the final group at 9 a.m. Brandt Snedeker and Chris Kirk, who had Saturday’s lowest score (65), join Sabbatini in the next-to-last group.
Spieth, like Na, believes a super-low closing round is possible on Colonial’s saturated layout and rain-softened greens. The Dallas native, who fired a third-round 67, mildly berated himself for not making more headway in relation to the lead during his six-birdie, three-bogey round.
“I knew I needed probably 10 under for the two [weekend] rounds to have a chance to get to 13 under,” Spieth said. “I think that still could possibly be the number. When I’m this far back, it’s tough not to press because I want to get to the lead so quickly. Normally, I can get away with it. On this golf course, you can’t get away with trying to press.”
Jimmy Burch, 817-390-7760