SNOQUALMIE — Woody Austin said he has been on the wrong side of the game of golf in 2021. It’s when the golf gods are seemingly against you and every break seems to be bad.
That, as much as anything, he said, is why he has had no top-10 finishes in 12 PGA Tour Champions events this year after having eight in 15 events in 2020.
But Austin has a lot more than just a top-10 finish in sight after he shot a 4-under-par 68 Saturday to take a one-shot lead entering the final round of the Boeing Classic at The Club at Snoqualmie Ridge.
Not that Austin was quite ready to say Saturday that the golf fates have turned for him just yet.
“I don’t know if you say that when you drive it in the middle of fairways in
divots,” he said. “Front nine was a little skittish, not terrible. Luckily for me, the guys that were going low were guys that were from behind and nobody was really kind of stretching out, so I was kind of hanging in there. I made a good up-and-down on 10 and then the swing really geared in.”
Indeed. Austin made three consecutive birdies beginning on the 13th hole, then birdied the 18th hole to take sole possession of the lead at 10-under 134.
One shot behind is Jim Furyk, a winner of 17 PGA Tour events, and World Golf Hall of Famer Colin Montgomerie. Five players are two shots back including PGA Tour Champions money leader Jerry Kelly, the 2018 Boeing Classic champion.
Nineteen players are within four shots of the lead, setting up a suspenseful final round. Seattle native Fred Couples is seven shots back after a 69.
Furyk is playing as well as anyone near the lead. He has three victories in his first season on PGA Tour Champions, including the U.S. Senior Open last month.
He definitely is capable of shooting a low round, having set the PGA Tour record with a 58 in 2016 and is the only Tour player to shoot under 60 twice.
“I was happy with yesterday, (and) I feel like today’s round was a little bit more solid, maybe a little bit better ball-striking,” said Furyk after a 67 Saturday.
Montgomerie, 58, has 54 professional victories, including seven on PGA Tour Champions, with his last win coming in 2019. But he seemed more interested in talking about Furyk, who he played with Saturday, than himself after the round.
“I enjoyed playing with Jim Furyk, I must admit,” said Montgomerie, who matched Furyk’s 67 Saturday. “He’s a gentleman and someone I’ve admired for many, many years since we first came across Jim in ’97 at Valderrama at the Ryder Cup. I’ve always admired his game and it’s great to play with him here in America.”
Montgomerie flew to Seattle from England on Tuesday. It has proved worthwhile. He has not made a bogey since his third hole Friday and has made 10 birdies in that span.
“I’ve holed out quite well,” Montgomerie said. “Jim (Furyk) is the guy to beat Sunday), but if I can hole out, I have a chance.”
Montgomerie and Furyk will be paired again Sunday, joining Austin.
Austin has four victories on the PGA Tour and four on PGA Tour Champions. He was second in the 2007 PGA Championship, but is still the least accomplished of the final threesome.
But Austin is confident in himself, no matter the foe.
“I’m always confident,” Austin said. “I think I can beat anybody on any given day.
I’ve said that my entire career even though I’m a journeyman. I can beat
anyone on any given day.”
Particularly if he is on the correct side of golf, as he says.