JACKSON, Miss. – Don’t look now, but Sergio Garcia may be on the verge of breaking out of his funk. The 40-year-old Spaniard posted a bogey-free 6-under 66 at the Country Club of Jackson to claim a share of the 54-hole lead at the Sanderson Farms Championship.
Garcia, who is seeking his first win on the PGA Tour since the 2017 Masters, improved to 14-under 202 and enters the final round tied with Cameron Davis and J.T. Poston.
Garcia is in the midst of a prolonged slump, with just one top-10 finish since February and he had missed three of his last four cuts. He failed to qualify for the FedEx Cup Playoffs and dropped out of the top 50 in the Official World Golf Ranking this week for the first time in nine years.
“He’s just been really struggling as of late and it’s hard to turn it around 180 and win,” said NBC/Golf Channel analyst Notah Begay III on Sirius XM/PGA Tour Network earlier this week, noting that Garcia is anxious to find form before the Masters in November. “He’s thinking if I can put together a solid week and find something it might jumpstart me into a good segment of weeks going into Augusta. It can happen at any moment.”
It’s happening as Garcia has put on a ballstriking clinic – he ranks first in Strokes Gained: Off the Tee and SG: Tee to Green this week – combined with an improved putting performance using an eyes-closed putting technique. Garcia, who ranked No. 187 in SGP last season, has gained strokes against the field on the greens in each of the first three rounds, and he ranked first in putts and greens in regulation and is 30-for-30 inside 3 feet. His performance with the flatstick on Saturday was his best yet.
“From 1 to 10 I would give myself at least a 9 or 9½,” he said. “And I’m not giving myself a 10 because two or three putts could have gone in and then it would have been even better.”
Count Brandt Snedeker among those who have been impressed with Garcia’s strong showing on the greens with his eye closed. “If he keeps making putts, everybody else will be trying it out here, too,” Snedeker said.
Garcia will face stiff competition if he wants to return to the winner’s circle. Davis went out early and fired a tournament-low 9-under 63. Playing in the last group of the day, Poston drained a 13-foot par putt to maintain his share of the lead and shoot 3-under 69. It marks the first time that Poston, 27, has held or shared a 54-hole lead on the Tour. He came from behind to win the 2019 Wyndham Championship for his lone victory.
“Three guys tied for the lead and a bunch of guys right behind us, so I think you’re going to have to go shoot something pretty low because out of that group somebody is going to shoot probably 6-, 7-under I would guess, maybe even lower,” he said. “I think if I got to 20 (under par) I would feel pretty good.”
Poston isn’t the only wizard with the putter in contention. Brandt Snedeker (67) is tied for fourth with Kristoffer Ventura (68) and trying for his 10th Tour title and first victory since the 2018 Wyndham Championship.
“Probably as excited and confident as I’ve been about my golf game in a long time. I’m talking years,” he said. “I’m really excited to see how it holds up tomorrow. I think it’s going to hold up really well, and I can shoot another low one.”
In all, there are 21 players within five strokes of the lead, including defending champion Sebastian Munoz, who will start five back. There’s a mix of proven winners such as Garcia and Snedeker and 36-hole leader Keegan Bradley, who struggled to shoot 73 and will start two strokes behind, and youngsters Ventura, Denny McCarthy (69), and Davis, who would fit into the tournament’s recent narrative of six straight first-time winners since the tournament began making its home at the Country Club of Jackson.
“I don’t know why it’s come down to every single one being a first-timer,” Davis said, “but hopefully there’s another one.”