WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W.Va. - He has missed six straight cuts, sandwiched around one withdrawal. By his admission, he had two birdies in his previous two tournaments combined.
But the Greenbrier Classic has proved to be the cure for what ails certain players, and Johnson Wagner is the beneficiary so far. He fired a 6-under-par 64 Saturday for a 54-hole total of 14-under 196, two strokes ahead of Jimmy Walker and at least four shots ahead of the rest of the field going into today's final round.
Wagner's 64 follows a first-round 62 and a second-round 70. He has two bogeys in the 54 holes.
The three-time PGA Tour winner has had a wretched season, a year after finishing just outside the FedExCup top 30. He has missed 11 of 17 cuts and ranks 145th in the points standings.
How fortunate was Wagner for his trip to Old White TPC to come when it did?
"Very fortunate," he said. "I've kind of had this little three-week stretch pinpointed for a while as a place that I can turn my year around. Unfortunately, my game wasn't in any position in Hartford, and I really liked playing at Congressional last week as well [but he missed that cut, too].
"I'm happy to be playing well here."
Wagner, one of two Virginia Tech graduates in the field, peppered the 99-year-old course with seven birdies with just one bogey. He took the lead for the rest of the day with an 18-foot putt on the ninth.
His putting was outstanding - he needed just 26 such strokes, one-putted 10 times and hit four putts of 11-plus feet.
The birdie putts were nice, but the 21-foot putt to save par on the 13th was the sweetest.
Wagner's drive on the skinny 474-yard par 4 headed up the hill to the right, heading toward the twin purgatories of high grass and white out-of-bound stakes. Luckily, the ball bounded down to the area of the cart path and rested in the primary rough.
Without a clear shot to the hole, he settled for the rough at the left edge of the green, 67 feet away. His chip was well short, but he buried the putt.
With that, he settled down for five straight pars before a birdie on the par-3 18th, where he hit a 12-footer.
"The par putt I made on 13 sure seemed like an eagle when it went in," he said.
He hit 14 of 15 putts from inside 10 feet and 16 of 19 from inside 15 feet, and he hit 12 of 14 fairways and 15 of 18 greens in regulation - all signs of a recaptured confidence.
"The last couple weeks, I've just been trying to be positive and remember that I've won three times out here," Wagner said. "It was my goal when I was a kid just to play out here; now I'm a three-time winner and I have nothing to lose."