After two top-10 finishes at majors earlier this season, the young American has his eyes on the Wanamaker Trophy.
HAVEN, WIS. — Golf can test your mind and tweak your body, can infuriate and discombobulate, can make you wonder why you didn't stick to something less demanding, like neuroscience.
Golf is the simplest and yet most difficult game in existence. It can cause blood blisters, cursing jags, profligate spending and self-recrimination, and yet there are days when the wind dissipates and the nerves calm, the swing finds its plane and all seems right with the world.
Nick Watney found that zone on Saturday at the PGA Championship. The long, lean Californian had his way with Whistling Straits, shooting a 66 in the third round to take a three-shot lead into what promises to be a blustery Sunday.
"The nature of this golf course is there's train wrecks everywhere, so I think every hole is pivotal,'' Watney said. "Par is good. Especially if the weather is bad.''
After two days of fog delays and threatening weather patterns, Whistling Straits turned sunny and simple on Saturday. The top six players on the leaderboard all shot 67 or better.
After finishing seventh at the Masters and the British Open this season, Watney will chase his first major title on Sunday, when winds of up to 25 miles per hour are predicted.
"I'm really looking forward to it,'' Watney said. "It'll be fun, it'll be a challenge and I'm really excited.''
The magic of major championship golf is its utter unpredictability. There were dozens of contenders as Saturday dawned, but by the end of a long, beautiful, typically surprising day, Watney was promising to become the next Louis Oosthuizen -- or the next Dustin Johnson.
The previously unknown Oosthuizen ran away with the British Open. The highly regarded Johnson fell apart on Sunday at the U.S. Open, allowing another relative unknown, Graeme McDowell, to win his first major.
Sunday, Johnson will be paired with Watney for the final round. Johnson took a three-shot lead into the final round at the U.S. Open, then shot an 82 and finished eighth.
Five of the past six major winners had never won a major before, and it could easily be six of seven by Sunday night.
While Watney was waxing 36-hole leader Matt Kuchar, who shot a 73 to fall into a tie for 11th, Liang Wenchong, a 32-year-old from China, was shooting a course record 64 to reach minus-9 and a tie for fourth.
Liang, who had made just one major cut before this weekend, received a late invitation to the PGA, so he wound up staying in Milwaukee. A Chinese journalist who had covered basketball player Yi Jianlian in Milwaukee recommended he eat at the Peking House in Pewaukee.
"We wanted to make sure we had a good place to eat,'' Liang said through a translator.
Liang said he planned to eat at the Peking House again on Saturday night. Asked whether he knows Yi, Liang said, "I would ask whether Yi knows me.''
Liang's emergence highlighted the international nature of modern golf. The four reigning major winners represent four different continents (South Africa's Louis Oosthuizen, Northern Ireland's Graeme McDowell, America's Phil Mickelson and South Korea's Y.E. Yang). By Saturday night, the six players at 9 under or better represented five different countries.
Liang required just 23 putts in the third round. "I started when I was 15,'' said Liang, who is from Zhongshan. "My hometown, that's where the first golf course in China is. It was designed by Arnold Palmer and it opened in 1984.
"I am considered in the second generation of golfers in China.''
Watney is a second-generation golfer, in a way. He played for his uncle, Mike Watney, at Fresno State; Mike played on the PGA Tour in the '70s.
Asked whether Johnson's implosion at Pebble Beach would affect him, Watney shrugged. "I can only control what I do,'' he said. "It's going to be a long day. It's going to be a tough day. But I'm really looking forward to it.''
Jim Souhan can be heard at 10-noon Sunday on 1500ESPN. His Twitter name is SouhanStrib. • email@example.com
|NY Mets - LP: J. Hefner||2||FINAL|
|Chicago Cubs - WP: S. Feldman||8|
|Seattle - LP: O. Perez||4||FINAL|
|Cleveland - WP: C. Perez||5|
|Toronto - LP: B. Morrow||2||FINAL|
|NY Yankees - WP: D. Phelps||7|
|Cincinnati - WP: B. Arroyo||10||FINAL|
|Philadelphia - LP: K. Kendrick||0|
|Chicago WSox||9||Bottom 8th Inning|
|Tampa Bay||10||Bottom 9th Inning|
|Houston||0||Top 2nd Inning|
|Los Angeles||0||Bottom 2nd Inning|
|Boston||3||Bottom 1st Inning|
|Arizona||1||Top 2nd Inning|
|Milwaukee||0||Top 2nd Inning|
|Detroit - A. Sanchez||7:05 PM|
|Texas - J. Grimm|
|San Francisco - T. Lincecum||7:10 PM|
|Colorado - T. Chatwood|
|Washington - J. Zimmermann||7:40 PM|
|San Diego - E. Stults|
|Kansas City - E. Santana||8:05 PM|
|Oakland - T. Milone|
|New York||7:00 PM|
|Los Angeles||8:00 PM|
|Portland||0||1st Half 18:00|
|New England||7:30 PM|
|FC Dallas||9:30 PM|