If Jason Gore was nervous about holding the lead after the third round of the Wyndham Championship, it didn’t show.
Asked how he would sleep, Gore smiled and said, “On my back.”
But that’s Gore. He’s a big man with a bigger sense of humor.
“And contrary to popular belief, I’m still a good golfer,” he said.
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He was Saturday. Gore used an 8-under-par 62 at Sedgefield Country Club to upstage Tiger Woods and everyone else, moving to 15-under at 195 and into a two-shot lead.
Woods had a share of the lead after 36 holes and strode to the first tee Saturday with his game face firmly in place. He then birdied the first hole, causing pandemonium.
But on a sunny day when Gore and Jonas Blixt each shot 62, when so many were making birdies in bunches, Woods couldn’t create any magic. After a 2-under 68, which included a sloppy bogey on the 18th hole, he fell back into a tie for second with Blixt and Scott Brown at 197.
“It was a grind,” Woods said. “I couldn’t get on the run Jason and Jonas did.”
Despite the late slip, Woods is still in contention for his first victory since the 2013 WGC Bridgestone Invitational. He’ll play with Brown and again have the biggest gallery, the most support, and that’s fine with Gore, who, like Woods, is a California native.
“I’m probably the biggest Tiger Woods fan ever,” Gore said. “I’ve known him since I was 12. I respect him.”
Gore took a dig at the media, saying some have treated Woods “like he’s a 20-handicapper” the past two years, when Woods has had back surgery, changed swing coaches, missed cuts in majors and tumbled in the rankings.
“What the guy has done for the game, bringing so many into the game of golf, it’s amazing,” Gore said. “We all have better lives because of him. It’s awesome to see him playing well again.”
Many played well Saturday. Blixt, a former Florida State golfer and the 2007 ACC champion, matched Gore with nine birdies and one bogey. Each golfers score was a a career low round on the PGA Tour.
Webb Simpson, a former U.S. Open champion and the 2011 Wyndham winner, also made a push.
Simpson, a Raleigh native who lives in Charlotte, had a 6-under 64 and was in a five-way tie with a 12-under 198. When he finished, he was one shot off the lead, but that was before Gore finished with birdies on four of his final seven holes.
“I felt really good throughout my whole game,” Simpson said. “I kind of kickstarted my way back into the tournament. It was a day when the golf course was firming out and the ball was going far. I’ve got to go out (Sunday) and stay aggressive.”
They all will. No one is likely to shoot 69 and win.
Gore, 41, is best remembered for another Sunday finish in North Carolina. In the 2005 U.S. Open at Pinehurst, he was in the final pairing with Retief Goosen.
Gore faded, badly. So did Goosen, a two-time U.S. Open winner, as Michael Campbell of New Zealand won.
Gore, who had a final-round 84 at Pinehurst, rebounded later in 2005 to win the 84 Lumber Classic, his only PGA Tour victory. His career has been filled with ups and downs, and a few years ago he considered giving up pro golf and applied to be the golf coach at Pepperdine.
Gore didn’t get the job. His alma mater turned him down.
“I tried to give (golf) up and couldn’t even do that right,” he said. “I basically came to the fact I’m unemployable, so I better start playing good golf.”
Gore played his way back onto the PGA Tour from the Web.com Tour, finishing ninth on the money list. He has one top-10 finish this season on the PGA Tour – a tie for 10th in the Travelers Championship – and is 166th in the FedEx Cup standings.
Many in the field will be looking to play their way into the FedEx Cup playoffs Sunday. Woods’ only guarantee into the playoffs is a win, but a second-place finish could do it.
But don’t count out Gore, who said he’s a more patient player at 41 and loves the game, challenges and all.
“You’re trying to hit a round ball with a round swing, as a human, outside,” Gore said. “Sometimes when you hit driver it’s a round face and you try to make it go straight. It just doesn’t work. That’s the beauty of it. The physics don’t work.”
Sounds like something to sleep on.