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HomeEuropean TourPieters eyeing American dream in Akron

Pieters eyeing American dream in Akron

Thomas Pieters will battle it out for a maiden World Golf Championship with two-time Major Champion Zach Johnson for company in the final group of the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, after the Belgian carded a third round 66 to share the lead with the American.

The three time European Tour winner could become the first debutant to win the famous tournament since Tiger Woods clinched the inaugural edition in 1999, but will come up against the might of a 12-time winner on the US PGA Tour in Johnson as well as a chasing pack which includes four-time Major winner Rory McIlroy.

Pieters got off to a flying start at Firestone Country Club, opening with three successive birdies followed by two more at the fifth and eighth. The wheels began to come off somewhat with back-to-back bogeys at the 13th and 14th but two birdies in the last three helped him to a four under round and a nine under total.

Johnson’s 65 was the second-best round of the day, only after that of Australian Scott Hend, who fired a scorching 63 – the best round of his European Tour career which included just 22 putts – to move into outright third position on eight under par.

McIlroy, meanwhile, carded a solid if unspectacular 68 in Akron after a chip-in for birdie at the 12th was followed by six successive closing pars but he will take plenty of comfort from the fact that he was also three shots off the pace heading into the final round here in 2014, before he went on to win.

Player quotes:

Thomas Pieters

“It was the same as the last two days – I struck the ball really well with the irons, my ball striking’s been really good. Off the tee not so good, but I think I’m missing it in the spots I can miss it in. All in all, it’s not too bad. I haven’t really made any long putts this week and it’s nice to see that one on 18 go in.

“When I do hit the fairway, I get really happy. Sometimes I’ll miss it 10 yards right of the flag and I know I’m right there with the swing, so I try to keep positive in that way. Hopefully we can straighten it out for next week and for tomorrow, and if I start hitting a lot of fairways I know I’m going to be shooting a lot of low scores.

“I’m going to give it my all, like I have done all this year. It’s just not been enough, but hopefully tomorrow’s going to be enough.

“That’s what you want at the beginning of the week, you just want to be in contention on Sunday afternoon, that’s it.”

Zach Johnson

“It was good today, I gave myself a lot of great opportunities. I think I missed a couple fairways, maybe two or three fairways. I hit a lot of greens in regulation, so it was just a solid day all around. I drove it well and I putted it good. I felt like I left some out there but at the same time I know I made a few, too.

“I don’t know how many top tens I’ve had here but it’s probably been a handful. I feel like I can compete here, that goes without saying. Still 18 holes left, still got to keep the pedal down.”

Scott Hend

“I holed some putts today. I’ve been scrambling well all week, and I managed to hit a few more fairways and actually holed some putts, so that was the big difference.

“This golf course can jump up and bite you pretty quick, and we don’t know what the conditions are going to be like tomorrow anyway. I’m just happy to be where I am right now and we’ll take stock tomorrow when we return to the golf course. I’ll just approach it the way we do any other tournament.”

Rory McIlroy

“It was okay. I felt like I could have got a lot more out of it. I think if I would have walked off today with a 65 or a 66, I would have felt that was a fair reflection of how I played. I left a few out there, but I’m only three behind going into tomorrow and I can get off to a fast start and try and put a bit of pressure on the guys up ahead of me.

“I’m hitting the driver really well. When you’re confident with it and you can go at it 100 percent, it feels good. It brings you back to three years ago when I was doing the same thing here (chasing from three shots back).  Hopefully that continues and I can keep it up, not just through tomorrow, but obviously into next week as well.

“I was three behind going into Sunday last time and I think I took the lead by the sixth tee box. There’s obviously a few more guys up around the lead this time around but I’m going to need to start like that again.”

Scores:

201 Zach Johnson 69 67 65; Thomas Pieters 65 70 66;
202 Scott Hend 70 69 63
203 Hideki Matsuyama 69 67 67
204 Adam Hadwin 68 69 67; Charley Hoffman 68 69 67 204; Rory McIlroy 67 69 68 204
205 Russell Knox 66 71 68;
206 Paul Casey 70 69 67
207 Bubba Watson 67 74 66; Brooks Koepka 71 69 67; Daniel Berger 71 68 68; Kevin Chappell 72 67 68; Jason Day 71 66 70; Jimmy Walker 68 65 74
208 Rickie Fowler 70 71 67; Jhonattan Vegas 69 71 68; Xander Schauffele 70 69 69; Adam Scott 68 71 69; Tommy Fleetwood 70 68 70; Jordan Spieth 67 70 71
209 Matt Kuchar 71 72 66; Hudson Swafford 70 69 70; Charl Schwartzel 70 69 70
210 Thorbjørn Olesen 73 70 67; Ryan Moore 73 69 68; Henrik Stenson 72 70 68; Brendan Steele 73 68 69; Ross Fisher 67 72 71
211 Jon Rahm 67 77 67; Dustin Johnson 68 75 68; Branden Grace 71 69 71; Alex Noren 69 68 74
212 Tyrrell Hatton 72 71 69; Justin Thomas 73 70 69; Bill Haas 70 70 72; Harold Varner III 70 69 73
213 Louis Oosthuizen 74 72 67; Patrick Reed 75 70 68; Brian Harman 70 74 69; Francesco Molinari 71 73 69; Si Woo Kim 73 69 71; Kevin Kisner 67 73 73; Renato Paratore 71 68 74
214 Marc Leishman 73 71 70; Kyle Stanley 69 74 71; Fabrizio Zanotti 74 69 71; Bernd Wiesberger 70 72 72
215 Bryson DeChambeau 75 69 71; Sam Brazel 74 70 71; Satoshi Kodaira 73 71 71; Phil Mickelson 71 72 72; Matthew Fitzpatrick 73 71 71; Sergio Garcia 72 71 72; Andres Romero 68 73 74; Justin Rose 72 69 74; Thongchai Jaidee 71 68 76
216 Hideto Tanihara 74 71 71 ;miliano Grillo 72 71 73; Paul Lawrie 69 74 73
217 Wesley Bryan 72 72 73; Jason Dufner 76 68 73
218 Lee Westwood 72 78 68; Russell Henley 75 74 69; Andy Sullivan 72 75 71
219 Rod Pampling 73 70 76
220 Jeunghun Wang 74 73 73; J.B. Holmes 69 73 78
221 Gary Woodland 74 77 70; Shaun Norris 71 77 73; Mackenzie Hughes 74 74 73
222 Pat Perez 72 75 75
224 Danny Willett 76 74 74; Rafa Cabrera Bello 76 73 75;
225 Chris Wood 75 74 76;
231 Billy Horschel 76 78 77

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