Commentary

Who will taste victory at Oak Hill?

Updated: August 10, 2013, 10:31 PM ET
By Gene Wojciechowski

ROCHESTER, N.Y. -- Quick, somebody get this PGA Championship one of Jim Furyk's energy drinks. Because if ever a major needed a Sunday pick-me-upper, this is it.

Nothing personal, but Glory's Last Shot should be well rested after a third round that featured about as much drama as a documentary on lift, clean and replace. Even those creepy husbands on those ED ads (and could we see a few more of those during the telecast?) nodded off during Saturday's play.

[+] EnlargeJim Furyk
AP Photo/Charlie NeibergallCould Jim Furyk possibly pull off what he couldn't do a year ago at Olympic Club in the U.S. Open and clinch a second major title 10 years after his first?

It didn't help that Tiger Woods' swing decided it needed some "me time" this week. Woods is 4-over for the tournament and has as much chance of winning this thing as Walter Hagen.

And it never helps when this year's Open Championship winner, Phil Mickelson, shoots the Dalai Lama's age (78) and sits one shot out of DFL status (Dead Flippin' Last).

So that means the world's No. 1 and No. 2 players will make ceremonial appearances Sunday, nothing more. A moment of silence, please, for the ratings.

That leaves the fate of the PGA Championship in the hands of a leaderboard that has serious final-day potential -- that is, if guys like Adam Scott can quit hitting trees and Rory McIlroy can stay out of Oak Hill Country Club's rough. Or if Jim Furyk can do what he couldn't do a year ago: close out a biggie.

There's pedigree on that board. Your Sunday checklist:

-- Furyk, who leads by 1 at 9-under, owns a 2003 U.S. Open championship and could/should have won more, including last year at Olympic Club. In 2012, he failed to hold on to any of his four 54-hole leads.

"I know I'm going to the media room, and I know someone is going to mention that I'm 43 and that I'm old and how many more chances am I going to have," Furyk said not long after his 2-under-par 68. He added, "You know, I'm not in the grave yet."

-- Jason Dufner, alone in second place, shot a 63 on Friday (tied for the lowest round in a major) and nearly won the 2011 PGA Championship.

-- Henrik Stenson, in third place at 8-under, finished just behind Lefty at last month's Open Championship. He's won a Players Championship, played in two Ryder Cups and once stripped down to his skivvies to hit a shot at Doral in 2009.

-- Jonas Blixt, only 3 shots back, has just one top-10 finish in 20 tournaments this season, but it was a win at Greenbrier. This is the first PGA Championship for the Swede, who learned the tomahawk chop at Florida State.

-- At 5-under and tied for fifth are Scott and Steve Stricker. Scott won the Masters way back in April and could have won the Open Championship. Stricker plays about once every autumnal equinox (he skipped the Open Championship, and this is only his 10th event of the season), but you'd never know it this week. He's 46, which makes him almost twice as old as …

-- McIlroy, who is tied for seventh with Lee Westwood at 3-under. The 24-year-old McIlroy has spent much of his year trying to explain why he's stunk it up. The weekly Dr. Phil sessions had become painful to witness, so it's nice to see him in contention. And, by the way, he won last year's PGA Championship after similar struggles.

And don't sleep on Westwood, who had the 54-hole lead at the Open Championship before losing altitude and making an emergency landing at third place. He is 0-for-62 in majors but has 16 top-10 finishes. Maybe this is the Sunday that the streak ends.

If you're looking to make a bar bet, remember that no 54-hole leader in a major this year has ended up slipping on a green jacket or kissing a trophy. And for those rooting for either Furyk or Stricker, remember that the last time 40-or-olders won back-to-back majors was 1986, when Jack Nicklaus and Raymond Floyd did it. Mickelson, 43, won at Muirfield last month, so now it's up to Furyk or Stricker to become trivia answers.

All of these players and others (Dustin Johnson, for example, is lurking at 2-under) will have to deal with a course that is getting meaner by the minute. Turns out Oak Hill doesn't like the color red.

Through 36 holes, there were 27 players under par, compared to only 20 through 54 holes. On Friday, there were 32 rounds in the 60s. On Saturday, only 11. McIlroy's 67 moved him up 21 spots.

Whatever the Oak Hill logo is, they ought to change it to a chainsaw and weedwacker. There are more trees here than at Redwood National Park, and the rough looks like it's been chugging fertilizer. If you don't hit it in the fairway, you risk instant golf death. Mickelson advanced a ball exactly 10 feet in the thick stuff Saturday.

Meanwhile, the greens and pin placements are becoming appropriately evil. Just what you want for a Sunday at a major.

So there's time, at least 18 holes (and who knows, maybe a playoff, too), for the PGA Championship to reverse the semi-boredom of Saturday.

"There's a lot of guys that have a chance to win this," Dufner said.

Exactly. Now we just need one of them to do something.

Gene Wojciechowski | email

Columnist / College Football reporter

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