Mathias Gronberg avoided seeing where Stuart Appleby was on the leaderboard for most of the third round of the Shell Houston Open.
He will have a different view in the final round. Appleby has a two-shot lead over Gronberg heading into the final round.
In the third round, Appleby maintained his lead by carding a three-under-par 69, moving to 14-under 202 through 54 holes.
Gronberg shot a five-under 67 and is at 12-under 204. Appleby and Gronberg will be in the same group for the final round.
Bob Estes and Jerry Smith are four strokes behind at 10-under.
Appleby returned to the golf course early to finish his second round, which was postponed on Friday due to darkness. He had two holes remaining and made par on both of them to finish at 11 under (133).
It did not seem to bother Appleby, who made three birdies in his first seven holes.
“Finishing up was not a big deal,” Appleby said. “I would like to have had my rhythm going.”
Gronberg’s routine was not disturbed and the Swede spent the round avoiding looking at where Appleby was on the leaderboard.
“It’s so funny, I never saw the top of the leaderboard,” Gronberg said. “I looked a little bit, I didn’t look too much, but I never saw his (Appleby) score for the whole 18 holes.”
It is a good thing he failed to do so. While Gronberg was making pars on the front nine, Appleby was building a substantial lead, going up by four shots at one point.
Gronberg finally got his first birdie on the eighth hole, a four-foot birdie putt, and followed it with two more, making a 48-foot birdie putt on the ninth and a 41-foot birdie on the 10th.
“It felt like 60 feet,” Gronberg said of the birdie on the ninth. “It was really nice to have the momentum going. I kind of wanted to get the momentum going in my favour and kind of get the round going a little bit.”
A birdie at the 12th got him to 12 under and his only bogey, on the 17th, dropped him to 11, but he made a 28-footer on the final hole that got him back to 12 under.
It proved to be a big putt. Appleby made a bogey on the final hole and his lead went from four to two.
Now Gronberg has the chance to put a little pressure on Appleby, who has had the lead since the first round.
Though Gronberg has won four times on the European Tour, he struggled to keep his card on the PGA Tour. He feels confidant, but will not be obsessing about Appleby in the final round.
“I am probably not going to look too much at all what he is doing,” Gronberg said. “I am going to admire good shots and if he is hitting good putts and good shots, then that’s about it.
“But I am not going to be too worried about him.”
Appleby is not only concerned about Gronberg, but the 10 other golfers that are within six shots of the lead.
“You can’t run away from the pack if you aren’t running away from it,” Appleby said laughing.
“Running away would be six shots up with six holes to play. That would be pretty much a run away. There is a lot of golf, 25% of the tournament still left out there.”
Estes is one of those close enough to catch Appleby and believes someone will get near him.
“You can make birdies on this golf course,” Estes said. “Some of the guys are going to do it and hopefully I will be one of those.”
Appleby has been reluctant to give up a 54-hole lead. He has had four of them in his career, winning three and placing second in the other.
If he wins, Appleby will be the first golfer at this event to win wire-to-wire.
Appleby has seven victories and three of those are at the Mercedes Championship. He won this event in 1999.
The feeling he had at those victories has returned this week.
“It is a confidant feeling that you like the way your game feels,” Appleby said. “I find that every time I have played well and won, I have always had it going to the tournament.”