3-time defending champion Mark Mulder one point behind Joe Pavelski headed into the final round of the 2018 American Century Championship
STATELINE — Mark Mulder is in position to take his fourth straight American Century Championship after 31 points on Saturday.
The former Major League Baseball pitcher was sitting at 4 points after his first 15 holes of the tournament; he finished Friday’s round with an eagle-birdie-birdie to climb up to 16th.
On Saturday, he used the momentum from Friday’s finish to post three birdies and five pars (14 points) on his opening nine. After a going bogey-birdie on holes 10-13, Mulder finished with three birdies on the closing holes to post a total score of 5-under 67 and a total of 47 points.
“I don’t know,” Mulder said about the round. “I’ve kind of blacked out in my last 21 holes. I mean, from 16 on through today, I played pretty well.”
Mulder is 1-point behind San Jose Sharks captain Joe Pavelski who became the last player in the field to card a double-bogey when he made a 6 on hole 15 Saturday.
Pavelski, who had 25 points in the opening round, finished Saturday with a birdie and a 23-point day. He took the lead back from Mulder with a birdie on the 18th hole.
Pavelski is in his third ACC tournament, finishing 10th in 2016 and tied for 12th in 2017. He had 10 points on the opening nine and finished the closing nine holes with 12 points, off-setting two bogeys and a double bogey with four birdies.
“I didn’t make too many putts early but I just kind of had that feeling. It’s the way the summer’s gone, I found ways to make putts and make some birdies at some point throughout the round.
“And I made a couple good putts that probably had a couple of feet break on them. And just got me going, gave me a little confidence, and I mean definitely happy with the position I’m in.”
Mulder, though, put himself in position for the 4-peat.
“Hit fairways, hit greens. Because here you can rack up a lot of points real quick,” he said of his plan for the final round. “It’s just trying to make as many birdies as you can or eagles. You get these chances. You want to take advantage of them.”
Former NFL quarterback Tony Romo is in third with 44 points. He also birdie the last three holes.
“I’m confident. I think (Friday) was probably my worst round in the last two or three tournaments. So the fact that I hopefully got that out of the way is a good sign and we’ll just keep playing good.”
Fellow former NFL quarterbacks Trent Dilfer (fourth with 43 points) and Mark Rypien (tied-fifth with 39 points) also are in contention. Former tennis player Mardy Fish, who came into the week with high hopes for a win, is tied with Rypien after a 22-point day. Dilfer said he gave away some points with a bogey on hole 14 and a double bogey (minus-2 points) on hole 15.
“I really thought I was going to go low. It was one of those days I had a 65, 66,” Dilfer said. “I probably got too aggressive.
“I’m going to go try to chase them down. (Sunday) I’m going to try to go do the same thing, try to make eight, nine birdies and make a charge of the back.”
The most popular trio on Saturday was Golden State Warriors star Steph Curry, Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers and soon-to-be basketball Hall of Famer Ray Allen. The crowds following the trio were large. They had a dunk contest on the 17th hole while waiting for other groups and interacted with the fans shooting baskets with Rodgers launching footballs to the beach-goers. Rodgers, with a 17-point day, jumped up to a tie for 11th. Allen with 24 points improved to 7th place after starting the day in 20th position.
“It’s certainly all fun. We always have a banter about the things we do and how we compete,” Allen said of the pairing.
Curry, who usually struggles in the first round and then plays his way into contention, struggled to a 79, worth 10 points on Saturday.
“The game of golf is very fickle. And I had some trouble on the greens … And it’s kind of how it goes,” Curry said. “So hopefully I’ll go really, really low (Sunday) and finish the week strong. But rough day out there.”
Curry is in a tie for 19th with 28 points. He started the day tied for eighth.
“I am going to have to birdie every hole,” he said about what he needs to do to win Sunday.
Retired Staff Sgt. Andrew Bachelder, the two-time winner of the Warrior Open Champion, hosted by former President George W. Bush, shot an 82, nine strokes worse than Friday’s round. He fell to 22nd place with seven points.
Basketball Hall of Famer and crowd favorite Charles Barkley scored minus-29 points to finish the day in 92nd position (last). Barkley made 16 double bogeys and two bogies to card a 104.
The first tee times are at 7:35 a.m. Sunday. The leaders — Romo, Mulder and Pavelski will tee off at 9:50 a.m.
“I’m excited to play with the guys (Sunday),” Pavelski said. “There’s some good golfers. And they’ve proven themselves. And Mulder’s the guy to beat right now.”
The tournament is played on the Modified Stableford System that awards six points for eagle, three for birdie, one for par, zero for bogey and minus-two for double bogey or worse.