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PGA Tour returns: Xander Schauffele leads with Justin Rose and Rory McIlroy in contention at Colonial

Schauffele (right) played with McIlroy (left) during Saturday’s third round at Colonial Country Club
Charles Schwab Challenge, round three leaderboard
-13 X Schauffele (US); -12 G Woodland (US), J Thomas (US), B Grace (SA), C Morikawa (US), J Spieth (US)
Selected: -11 Berger (US), Varner III (US), -10 P Reed (US), J Rose (Eng), R McIlroy (NI), B DeChambeau (US); -7 I Poulter (Eng); -5 M Fitzpatrick (Eng), B Koepka (US)

American Xander Schauffele takes a one-shot lead into Sunday’s final round of the Charles Schwab Challenge in Texas.

Schauffele birdied the last for a four-under 66 to move to 13 under and jump clear of five players on a congested leaderboard at Colonial Country Club.

Justin Thomas, Jordan Spieth, Gary Woodland and Collin Morikawa and South Africa’s Branden Grace are 12 under.

England’s Justin Rose dropped two shots in his last three holes and is 10 under with world number one Rory McIlroy.

Northern Ireland’s McIlroy had three birdies and two bogeys in a one-under-par 69 and says he is “within striking distance” for the final round of the PGA Tour’s return event after a three-month break because of the coronavirus pandemic.

“I didn’t think I played well but looking at the leaderboard no one else pulled away,” he added.

Rose, who won this event in 2018, says “it will be all out attack” on Sunday after admitting he was disappointed with his back nine on Saturday.

“It was a mixed bag,” he said after signing for a 68 that contained six birdies, one double bogey and two bogeys.

“I love competing here. It offers a lot of birdie opportunities and my putting has been amazing but it fell apart a bit on the back nine.”

Fellow Englishmen Ian Poulter and Matt Fitzpatrick also shot under par scores. Poulter had four birdies in his final five holes as he posted a three-under 67 to reach seven under, while Fitzpatrick’s 68 lifted him to five under.

Americans dominate leaderboard

On another gloriously sunny day in Fort Worth, all eyes were on Harold Varner III, the world number 124 who was joint leader with Rose after round one and sole leader after round two.

Varner III, one of the few black American professional players on the PGA Tour circuit, has been at the centre of the tour’s racial and social injustice conversation this week in Fort Worth, in the wake of the death of George Floyd in police custody and the worldwide protests that followed.

Since play started on Thursday, he has spoken about being focused on playing. He birdied the first but parred the next 12 holes before dropping a shot on the 15th and closing with three more pars to finish the day where he started on 11 under.

His playing partner Jordan Spieth quickly joined Varner III at the top of the leaderboard and went clear of the field when he holed his fourth birdie of the round on the ninth to reach 13 under.

However, he too bogeyed the 15th and was briefly in a six-way share of the lead as he carded a two-under 68.

World number four Thomas had a bogey-free 66, while Woodland closed with two birdies in his 66 and were joined at the top of the leaderboard by Morikawa, who holed five birdies on his back nine in a 67.

In fact, Grace, who also shot a 66 and was one of the sextet in the tie for the lead, is the only non-American in a top 10 that is completed by Patrick Reed who hit the day’s lowest round, a bogey-free 63 to improve to 10 under.

The Scientist sparks debate

There has been much debate this week over the size of Bryson DeChambeau. The American, nicknamed ‘The Scientist’ because of his approach to the game – all the shafts on his clubs are the same length for example – has taken a new route, bulking up his weight and muscle in an effort to hit the ball further.

DeChambeau says he has gained 45lbs in weight over the past nine months, 20lbs of that in the three months the PGA Tour has been dormant.

In round one, the 26-year-old averaged 345 yards off the tee – the 2019 PGA Tour average was 294 yards – leading Scotland’s Colin Montgomerie to tell BBC Sport that the “time has come” for officials to introduce a “tournament ball for professionals that only goes 80-85% as far”.

“My ultimate goal is to get as strong as I can, applying some force and speed to the swing to see what it can handle,” DeChambeau said after round two, when he was one shot off the lead on 10 under.

Of course distance does not always go hand-in-hand with accuracy in this game and DeChambeau missed three of the first five fairways, the final one costing him a shot on the par-four fifth.

On the flip side, it can lead to great rewards. He reached the 613-yard par-five 11th in two shots – a 330-yard drive, followed by a 280-yard shot to the green – and holed a 23-foot putt for a rare eagle which put him back in contention.

However, a bogey on the 17th saw him drop sign for a level-par 70 and stay at 10 under.

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