PALM HARBOR — Robert Garrigus isn’t a slow golfer.
And, surprisingly, Kevin Na, notorious for being a slow golfer, isn’t either.
“I think you get that stamp, and most people who only casually watch golf say, ‘Hey, he’s a slow player,’ and you can never really get rid of that stamp because that’s what you’re known as,” said Na, whose slow play at the 2012 Players Championship earned him that stigma. “I don’t think I’m slow, and I’ve even had lots of players tell me I’ve gotten better. I appreciate the compliments.”
Garrigus and Na completed the third round of the Valspar Championship at Innisbrook Resort and Golf Club in less than four hours, and Garrigus is the 54-hole leader by a stroke over Na after shooting a 70 to get to 8 under. The two will be paired again Sunday at 1:45 p.m., with each looking for their first PGA Tour win in more than three years.
“(At stake), obviously, is something shiny — and a million dollars,” said the 30-year-old Na, who has one bogey in the three rounds, on the par-4 10th. “I got one win (2011 Shriners Hospitals for Children Open), and I think I’ve had a pretty successful career except I lack the wins. I think it’s time for me to catch up to that number.”
Right behind Na is Australian John Senden, who turned in a 64 Saturday to move to 6 under. Defending U.S. Open champion Justin Rose sits at 5 under after shooting a 2-under 69 in the third round.
Two-time Valspar champion Retief Goosen, who won here in 2003 and ’09, matched Senden’s tournament-best 64 before noon to move to 4 under, where he is tied with Charley Hoffman (67) and Scott Langley (69).
Of the seven players within four shots of the lead at Innisbrook, just one (Rose) is qualified to play in next month’s Masters, so not only is a $1 million payday on the line, but for many, so is a spot in the field at Augusta National.
“Looking at the leaderboard early in the day, I knew there was some good golf out there, and I felt like I did play some good golf,” Rose said. “I felt I could have gotten in today with a 66, but at the same time, really happy if I look at the big picture and know how well I’ve played (coming off a shoulder injury early in the season).”
Garrigus, who entered the round with a three-stroke lead and had a four-stroke lead over Na through 11 holes, improved to 10-of-12 on par-5 birdies at Copperhead, including 10 straight that ended on the 11th. Garrigus saw his lead dwindle to a stroke with a bogey on 12, and he three-putted 18 to finish with a 70. Na, shooting his second straight 68, got birdies at 11 and 15, the latter coming off a 26-foot chip-in.
“I kind of lost a little energy out there on 12, 13, 14 (and) made a bad swing on the par-5 (11th) that broke my streak,” said Garrigus, whose last PGA Tour win came in the 2010 Disney Children’s Miracle Network Classic. “I was kind of upset about that — I missed that putt on 11 and was like, ‘Oh, well, streak’s over,’ but I didn’t get out of rhythm.
“I’m in a good position, and if I play well tomorrow and shoot under par, (the field behind me is) going to have to come get me. That’s what I plan on doing. I can’t sit there and make pars and expect to win the golf tournament.”
Despite being assessed no penalties, Garrigus and Na were given bad times, with Garrigus being put on the clock after the 14th and Na after the 13th. However, Na said Garrigus never complained about slow play, and they confided in each other that the pace was never lagging. Their round was slowed by Pat Perez, who struggled to shoot a 6-over 77 that included two double bogeys, with a lost ball on the third hole, and four bogeys.
“That’s the first time in 17 years as a professional,” the 36-year-old Garrigus said, “I’ve ever got a bad time on the golf course. … I started laughing and looked at (the rules official) like ‘I’m going to have words with you after,’ just messing around with him, but he knew what I was talking about. I’m not going to get another one.”
“I felt like we were a little rushed out there,” Na said. “Overall, after 18 holes, they said we played in three hours and 54 minutes — that’s not too shabby for this golf course.”
Also not too shabby would be Na grabbing a spot in the Masters, after he finished 12th at Augusta in 2012. That fact is lingering in the back of his mind.
“Obviously, I would love to go back,” Na said. “Of course. I think about it all the time. It’s a place you always want to be. I’ve got a chance tomorrow, so we’ll see if I get it done.”