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Solid rounds not enough for Stallings, Bubba

Chip Ellis
Bubba Watson lets one fly on his approach to the 10th green. His 69 left him in a tie for 41st place.

WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W.Va. - One of Saturday's largest galleries at the Greenbrier Classic gathered to see one of the best feast-or-famine pairings possible.

For 2011 Classic champion Scott Stallings, his pre-round meal nearly ruined his day. For Bubba Watson, a bogey on the 17th messed up the weekend.

As it turned out, neither made a big run. Stallings' 67 left him at 6-under-par 240, only raising him from a tie for 35th to a tie for 16th; Watson's 69 put him at 4 under, falling from that 35th to a tie for 41st.

Watson bludgeoned the ball off the tee and hit 11 of 14 fairways in doing so, and his putting was much better, but his chipping failed him. He passed on his usual post-round interview.

Stallings half-wondered if he was going to get to a post-round anything.

"Right in the middle of breakfast, I don't know if I ate something funny or this or that, but I felt fine when I woke up," he said. "It's starting to go away, so hopefully it'll pass and I'll be ready for [today's final round]".

Stallings birdied the fourth but gave it back on the ninth, missing a 61/2-foot par putt. He hit a 9-footer for birdie on the 10th, but got himself in deep trouble on the next hole.

The 11th was shortened from 493 yards to 473, but he landed in the trees to the left. He was forced to punch out to the fairway, leaving 96 yards to the hole.

His third shot left him 16 feet away, but he sank his longest putt of the day to save par.

"I hit a bad drive there," he said. "To make a poor birdie on 9 and follow it up with a good birdie on 10 and then to hit a bad drive and kind of get away with it and make a par, it was nice. Kind of spurred me on and made a few more birdies on the back.

"It was nice to finish 3 under, especially when I didn't feel my best."

Stallings and Watson have played together often, and it showed on the 14th. They cut up a little on that green, even when both missed the putt on the exact same line, with the exact same curl and ending point.

It was a good time to be cheerful. Both birdied the par-4 13th, the toughest hole in the tournament's short history. Watson could forget his bogey on No. 10, when he squandered a perfect drive by chunking a pitch from 64 yards out.

He put on another driving show, averaging 310.1 yards on 14 tee shots. He had 10 of 300 or more yards, including a 347-yarder on the seventh.

But Watson's long-hitting strategy got him in trouble on the 615-yard par-5 17th, and his deficient short game couldn't rescue him.

His perfect 321-yard drive left him 294 from the hole, and you cannot expect him to lay up from that distance. But this time he pushed his shot left, with the ball resting against the grandstand.

He got enough relief for a full swing, but didn't do much with it - he hit that 36-yard pitch short and to a grassy uphill lie, then advanced his next chip just 12 feet. He couldn't hit his 191/2-foot par putt, settling for a bogey and leaving him at 4 under.

Reach Doug Smock at 304-348-5140, dougsmock@wvgazette.com or follow him at twitter.com/dougsmock.

 

 


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