Remember when K.J. Choi tied the Aronimink course record with a 64 on Friday? Well, forget about it. Nick Watney is your new record holder after an -8, 62 Saturday. Despite a largely ordinary even-par, 35 on the front, Watney would card six birdies and one eagle for a back nine total of just 27.
Watney was hardly alone, however, in his stellar play. Low scores were to be had during the third round, after the Aronimink grounds crew was reported to have sprayed a little extra water on the greens over night. Consequently, fans in Newtown Square enjoyed four rounds of 64, two of 63, and one—Watney's—62. Beside setting the new course low, Watney's Saturday finish matches the AT&T National single-round tournament record set by Anthony Kim at Congressional Country Club in 2009.
Not typically known for being so accessible, especially after putting up such a tough test in 2010, Aronimink played substantially easier than usual Saturday. Nonetheless, many of the players remained highly complimentary of the layout and its conditions:
"This is one of the better [courses] we play all year, and I think every other player will agree with that," said Chris Kirk. Kirk, who carded a -7, 63 on Saturday, sits just three shots behind Watney and Fowler at -6. "It's just a great golf course," Kirk continued, "It tests every part of your game."
Co-leader Nick Watney, whom you may remember for his performance at the 2010 PGA Championship, spoke in a similar tone when asked for his take on the multitude of low numbers.
"I don't know. I think the greens are a bit softer than they could have been. I heard they put some water on them. They gave us a drivable par-4. Other than that, the greens are so good that you can really start making putts. But I'm not sure why there were so many low scores today, whereas the first six rounds here, it was very difficult."
As for Watney's co-leader Ricky Fowler (pictured above), the young man in the brightly-colored Puma's is clearly the crowd favorite, especially amongst the ladies. It's hardly been uncommon this week to overhear any number of females—both young and not-so-slightly older—comment that they either "can't wait to go see Rickie Fowler" or are "trying to go see Rickie Fowler again."
Maybe it's that he's young—just 22. Maybe it's his outrageous monochromatic attire—a Carolina blue on Saturday. Maybe it's that he's already rich—having taken home $2.8 million last year. Maybe it's all of these things (It's probably all of these things). Let's just say that the kid has a bright future ahead of him, both on and off the course.
And, in fairness, Fowler's crowds are far from just women.
"[The crowd around me] definitely grew as the round went on," said Fowler. "I saw some kids with my hats on. It's definitely nice to have that, to have people to see me play and keep me going…It seems like these Philadelphia fans seem to like getting a little loud at times. So, hopefully we can give them something to cheer for tomorrow."
As if he couldn't get any better, he even knows how to appeal to our local sensibilities. Well done, Rickie.
One final update, 36-hole leader K.J. Choi had more than his fair share of struggles early in round three. After a promising birdie at the first, Choi would bogey three of next five, posting a disappointing +2, 37 on his opening nine. Still, K.J. would fight back to close with a -3, 34 on the back and finish with a -1, 69.
The forty-one-year old South Korean sits just one shot back of the lead at -8. Of the seven occasions in which Choi has held the 36-hole lead of a PGA Tour event, he has claimed victory five times. He'll try to make six of eight when he attempts to hunt down Fowler and Watney Sunday.
We'll be back tomorrow to wrap up the 2011 AT&T National from Aronimink. Following our weekend-long theme, we leave you with Bill Murray's stunning rendition of the 1980 Masters Championship. It's in the hole, it's in the hole.