Saturday action at Valhalla brought a lot of movement around the top of the leaderboard. Kiyoshi Murota (-9) of Japan remains the leader heading into Sunday, but he shares the lead with 4-time Senior PGA Champion Hale Irwin who double-bogeyed his final hole on Saturday. Other names close to the leaders that may spark up some championship-caliber nostalgia: Watson (-8), Price (-6), Lehman (-5), Calcavecchia and O’Meara (-4).
One couldn’t even attempt to imagine a better contest for Sunday’s final round action - except, of course, unless Kentucky favorites Kenny Perry and Ted Schulz could somehow be written into the script.
Stranger things have happened. After all, Tom Lehman (defending champion) wouldn’t have even been in the conversation had it not been for the string of 6 straight birdies he was able to put together on his way to a third round 68.
The throngs of people following Perry on Saturday had many taking notice. True, Perry was garnering roars and cheers around the course all day Saturday, but it wasn’t because he was climbing up the leaderboard. Instead, Perry was holding steady at or around even par all day long. With many a spectacular shot and several great par saves, Perry tapped in a birdie putt on the 18th on Saturday to find himself more than half-a-dozen strokes back.
You know who the last person to win the Senior PGA Championship when it was held at Valhalla? Hale Irwin. The man seems to play well consistently here in Louisville. That type of consistency is key when it comes to winning major championships and Irwin has had it all week or all last decade for that matter.
With all of the exciting names near the top of the leaderboard, it’s easy to forget Mr. Kiyoshi Murota. Even after struggling with back issues and giving up 2 shots to the field on Saturday, Murota can say that he has led all three rounds so far and has clearly established himself as the man to beat in the final round.
Can Murota capture his first US PGA victory and first major championship? Will Hale Irwin win his 5th Senior PGA Championship in the last 15 years? Perhaps Lehman can repeat. Regardless of which player you’re rooting for on Sunday, the finale promises to be an exciting one. Personally, I’m a long-time fan of Mark O’Meara’s. With only one other PGA victory since his British Open title in 1998, a win here would be pretty sweet. Of course, I’m also pulling for our Kentuckian Kenny Perry to make something magical happen.
If you’re not going to be with me on the ropes for the final round, you can watch from the edge of your seats with Live Sunday coverage of the Senior PGA Championship on NBC from 3pm-6pm EST.
Photo courtesy of: www.pga.com/senior