PALM HARBOR, FLA. Justin Rose is coming off a year in which he won two PGA Tour events on strong golf courses. He knows what to expect from his emotions in the final round and how to stay patient amid a crowded leaderboard.
The four guys behind him have never won.
And that made Rose’s one-shot lead Saturday in the Transitions Championship seem a little larger.
“It doesn’t mean it’s all going to go smoothly tomorrow,” Rose said. “You have to be ready for whatever happens. But at least I kind of am aware of the ups and downs, and the things I’m going to face. And I think that maybe it’s a lot easier to deal with.”
Rose was patient for long enough for the birdies to fall, and he shot a second straight round of 6-under 65 in more perfect conditions at Innisbrook to build a lead over Brendon de Jonge and Webb Simpson.
A 6-foot birdie putt on the 18th hole put Rose at 13-under 200, one shot off the 54-hole tournament record.
De Jonge and Simpson have never won on the PGA Tour. Neither have the two guys another shot behind — rookie Scott Stalling, who only made his first cut in the big leagues last week in Puerto Rico; and Gary Woodland, who lost in a playoff at the Bob Hope Classic this year.
Woodland is an intriguing contender.
He is the latest pure athlete to join the PGA Tour, cut along the lines of Dustin Johnson, only less polished. He spent his freshman year playing basketball, saw a greater future in golf and transferred to Kansas University.
That’s when he started facing his first real competition, but after shoulder surgery last year, Woodland is starting to progress quickly.
He lost in the three-man playoff at the Hope, and has been steady on a Copperhead course he has never seen. Woodland, one of the biggest hitters on tour, decided to go conservative and hit mostly 2-iron off the tee. It’s working out for him.