The 2018 Zurich Classic got turned up a bit on Saturday (). The on-course play popped, too, as three different teams shot 61 on Friday, and three others shot 62. But the 54-hole leader is the same team that shared the lead at this event after 72 holes in 2017.
Scott Brown and Kevin Kisner fired a 8-under 64 on Saturday to get to 20 under overall, and have a one-stroke advantage over teams of Tony Finau and Daniel Summerhays (-19) and Michael Kim and Andrew Putnam (-19). Heavyweights (or maybe just heavier weights) Louis Oosthuizen-Charl Schwartzel (-16), Chris Paisley-Tommy Fleetwood (-15) and Justin Rose-Henrik Stenson (-15) are all in the mix as well.
We'll talk about a few of those guys in a bit, but first let's look a little closer at our leaders and what to expect going into the weekend with some Round 3 takeaways.
1. Brown and Kisner might own this tournament: Last year's runner up (in a playoff) is playing tremendously once again. Their 64 on Saturday was among the better scores, but they might have a problem on Sunday during alternate shot. Of the 10 birdies they made in Round 3, Kisner made seven of them. That's not all. Kisner also made two bogeys on the back nine on Saturday, and Brown couldn't make par to pick him up. That can work in best ball (and often does), but if Brown brings on Sunday what he brought on Saturday, this duo could be in trouble. Of course, it's going to be hard to pick against this duo, and they are the +200 Vegas favorites.
2. Low scores reigned: The average score on Saturday during best ball was 65.2. It wasn't quite as electrifying as Round 1, but the course was clearly set up for a little bit of excitement in Round 3. The following average scores are only for teams that made the cut.
- Round 1: 64.5
- Round 2: 71.8
- Round 3: 65.2
In other words, if you made seven birdies on Saturday, you essentially gained no ground. That won't be the case on Sunday during alternate shot, but it made for some fun viewing in Round 3.
3. Format change approved: I know there was much bemoaning the format change this year where the weekend rounds flipped from alternate shot on Saturday and best ball on Sunday (2017) to best ball on Saturday and alternate shot on Sunday (2018), but I'm a fan.
With loads of teams bunched at the top of this leaderboard (13 teams are at or within four of the lead), you get a situation on Sunday in which there will be immense value placed on how you play the course and the other teams strategically. Maybe it won't work every year, but it seems to have worked this time around.
4. Rose-Stenson missed opportunity: Henrik Stenson and Justin Rose went out in 29 on Saturday and were looking 59 right in the face. Then, somewhat incredibly, they made par on every single hole on the back nine and could only muster a 65. Their 15-under number is good and it puts them in the top 20, but to win this tournament, they needed something under par on the back nine on Saturday, and for whatever reason, they did not get it.