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2020 Charles Schwab Challenge leaderboard breakdown, takeaways: Schauffele looks to hold off Spieth, McIlroy

A star-studded leaderboard through 54 holes sets up an epic final round on Sunday

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Just when you thought the 2020 Charles Schwab Challenge couldn’t get any better, Patrick Reed walked through the door and entered the contention conversation. An early round-of-the-day 63 from Reed was a morning highlight followed by several more throughout the afternoon as Xander Schauffele (-13) leads Reed and others going into Sunday’s final round at Colonial Country Club.

Saturday’s third round was a roller coaster, so let’s look back at everything that went down in Fort Worth, Texas, on Saturday as we prepare for our first PGA Tour champion since Tyrrell Hatton took the Arnold Palmer Invitational back at the beginning of March.

Round 3 leaderboard breakdown

  1. Xander Schauffele (-13):The X-Man broke out of a six-way tie with a birdie at the last hole in front of playing partner Rory McIlroy (we’ll get to him momentarily). Schauffele was more or less perfect from tee to green, ranking first in the field in driving and in strokes gained tee to green en route to his 66. His swing looks especially flush right now, but he hasn’t won from out in front over the course of his PGA Tour career. It’s something I’ve been clamoring for from him for a few years now, and he has a massive opportunity to take a big step forward on Sunday at Colonial.

T2. Jordan Spieth (-12): If you’re scared of heights or hairpin turns, following a Spieth round (or tournament) is not for you. He hit three fairways and five greens on the front and shot 32. He hit four fairways and five greens on the back and shot 36. Spieth hit more greens from 195 or more yards (three) than he did from 140 yards and closer (two), and he had more than twice as many opportunities from the latter distance. Spieth is (somehow) in the top 10 in driving this week after being completely off the planet for the last few years. Add it all up and we’re left with this: I have no idea what Sunday holds — and I’m probably not emotionally prepared for what will happen — but I will not miss a single shot.

T2. Justin Thomas, Branden Grace, Collin Morikawa, Gary Woodland (-12): If you told me the winner came out of this foursome, I would not argue. Thomas shot the quietest 66 he’s maybe ever shot on Saturday. It does concern me that part of his equation is a smoking putter, but I could definitely see a 65 from him to shut this thing down late on Sunday. Also, I can’t get enough of Morikawa. His ball-striking on Saturday in that back-nine 31 was sublime. Sunday is a good chance for him to introduce himself to the broader sports world by taking down Spieth, Thomas, Schauffele and McIlroy.

T7. Harold Varner III, Daniel Berger (-11): Varner started hot with a birdie at the first and clung to the top of the board until fading slightly at the very end. A win here for one of the few African-American golfers on the PGA Tour in a tournament taking place in the middle of the race relations conversations and protests around the country would be monumental. As Jim Nantz noted on Saturday, Varner would be just the eighth black man to win on the PGA Tour. I don’t think he had the staying power to hold off how many superstars are at the top here, but he’ll be easy to root for come Sunday.

T9. Rory McIlroy, Bryson DeChambeau (-10): This is where I draw the line for who can win the event. If you come from beyond 10 under then you probably shot a 61 or 62 to win. DeChambeau and McIlroy rank No. 3 and No. 4 respectively in strokes gained tee to green this week, but they’ve dropped a bit on the leaderboard because of cool putters. Collectively, this duo lost three strokes to the field on the greens on Saturday. Flip that around, and they’ll be in it late on Sunday.

T9. Patrick Reed, Abraham Ancer, Corey Conners, Justin Rose (-10): I couldn’t help thinking on Friday that we couldn’t have any better set of storylines going into the weekend of this event. So, of course, Reed went out and fired a lights-out 63 to rocket up the board and put himself in position for his second win of the year. He probably won’t win (because going 63-65 on the weekend to win would be insane), but the idea that he could topple Spieth on Sunday in a tournament Spieth needs badly delights me to no end.

Round 3 takeaways

  • Maybe I just haven’t seen enough live golf in a while, but at different points this week I’ve thought the following about Gary Woodland, Collin Morikawa and Schauffele: “This is the most underrated move on the PGA Tour.”
  • Everything Spieth says on the course is fascinating. Every response his caddie, Michael Greller, has is fascinating, too. At one point, Spieth was about 60 yards out for his third shot on a par-4 and told Greller he thought he had a certain shot. Greller’s response: “I know you have that shot, but now is not the time.”
  • I might be alone on this one, but I don’t mind not having fans, especially from the perspective of watching at home. I don’t even really notice it all that much, and in fact, I think having fans there hollering ridiculous stuff all the time sometimes even takes away from the event. I realize that’s probably financially unsustainable, but for this stretch of golf, it’s kind of great.
  • The fake waving to the crowd thing is the absolute best.
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