PALM HARBOR, Fla. — Robert Garrigus missed two short par putts over the last seven holes Saturday, and just like that, his four-shot lead dwindled to one in the Valspar Championship.
Garrigus, who needs a win to get into the Masters Tournament in April, opened with back-to-back birdies on the Copperhead Course at Innisbrook and stretched his lead to four shots with a nifty flop shot off the pine straw to set up a birdie on the par-5 fifth.
He still had a four-shot lead when he missed a 4-foot par putt on the 12th hole, and his lead was down to a single shot when Garrigus missed a 3-foot par putt on the final hole. Kevin Na chipped in for birdie on the 15th and shot 68.
Garrigus was at 8-under 205.
“I had fun,” Garrigus said. “I’m in a good position. If I play a good round tomorrow, if I shoot under par, they’re going to have to come get me.”
The final group was put on the clock on the back nine, and Na received a bad time on the 13th tee. Na was so deliberate that the final group at times was two holes behind along the back nine, though they finished in just under four hours.
Garrigus paid the price, too.
He was given a bad time for the first time in his career, shocking because he is among the fastest players on tour. In this case, he had a tough lie in the rough on the 14th hole and walked up to the green to gauge his options.
That led to the bad time, and Garrigus said he didn’t bother looking at his next shot as long as he normally would have. It was a long putt that ran some 15 feet by the hole, but he made that for par.
“Best putt of the week,” he said.
Garrigus and Na will be in the final group again today, with plenty of company right behind them on the leaderboard.
John Senden matched the low score of the tournament with a 64 in perfect, sunny weather. He moved up 32 spots to third, and goes into the final round only two shots behind. Justin Rose hit a wild tee shot on the 18th and made bogey, though his 69 left the No. 7 player in the world in reasonable shape. He was three behind.
Retief Goosen (64) is in a tie for fifth, along with Charley Hoffman (67) and Scott Langley (69).
Luke Donald had 67, and those two bogeys by Garrigus gave the former world No. 1 some hope.
“I’ve played here enough times, and seeing the scores over the last couple days, I knew a good round would shoot me up the board,” said Donald, who won at Innisbrook in 2012. “So just try to play my own game and post something low-ish to get me back into contention.”
Pat Perez wasn’t as fortunate. He opened with a birdie, but then pulled his tee shot into the vegetation left of the third fairway. A penalty drop would have left the ball just in front of a palmetto bush, so he went back to the tee and made double bogey. He made another double bogey on the back nine with a tee shot into the water on No. 12 and fell out of tournament with 77.