But for Graham DeLaet, who has yet to win on the PGA Tour, it would probably feel like the weight of the world – or at least all of Canada – had been lifted off his shoulders. Not that he feels pressure from the folks in the Great White North.
“I just feel support from 35-million people north of the border, and I’m going to do everything I can for them tomorrow,” said DeLaet, who is trying to become the second Canadian to win the Northern Trust Open.
Of course, there are 12 other people within four strokes of Goosen’s lead at 8-under, including two-time Masters champ Bubba Watson, who erased that deficit on Sunday to win here a year ago, and another pair of dual major winners in Angel Cabrera and Vijay Singh.
Riviera continued to assume a major aura in the third round, too, yielding birdies grudgingly and placing a premium on fairways and firm, fast greens. No one has shot lower than 66 in the first three rounds and the cumulative scoring average is 1.601 strokes over par.
As exacting a challenge as the Riv is, though, the biggest hurdle for Goosen and DeLaet on Sunday, when light rain is expected along with an opposite wind, will likely be to not overreact to the bad shots. Both handled that well in the third round.
Goosen answered what could have been a devastating stretch of three bogeys in the previous four holes with birdies on Nos. 16 and 17, the first a masterful chip-in, to reopen a two-stroke advantage. And DeLaet broke away from the big group at 5 under with a birdie at No. 16 after making bogeys at the 12th and 14th.
“Patience is a big, big key on a course like this,” Goosen said. “I have the experience, but it’s been quite a long time ago now – 14 and 11 years ago since I won a US Open.
“It wasn’t easy out there for me. Mentally-wise, I had to work hard to try and stay positive and focused. But I’m still in the lead, so that’s a good place to be. Just try and play solid tomorrow and keep the putter warm and see what happens.”
Goosen, though, has been there, done that, winning seven times on tour. But the 46-year-old South African is in the process of resurrecting his stellar career after having disc replacement surgery two-and-a-half years ago to mend his lower back.
DeLaet has battled spinal issues of his own, undergoing a microdiscectomy for a pinched nerve in his back four years ago. Although he played a full schedule in 2012, the Boise State grad needed even longer to feel completely confident in his game.
Since the surgery, DeLaet has posted three runner-up finishes and two third places. Over the course of his career, he’s finished one shot out of a playoff five times, and he knows better than to get ahead of himself.
“I’ve slept on either leads or final group pairings before and I know like laying in bed, you’re thinking about what a win can do and this and that,” DeLaet said. “I’m past that now in my career. I know I have to take it one shot at a time. I know the most important shot for me is the one coming up next, that tee shot on 1 tomorrow.”
DeLaet remembers the first time he ever played in the final group on Sunday. He was holding onto his putter for dear life, and he was leaving putts short, as a result. He knows he’ll need to relax and concentrate, and he figures watching a flat-liner like Goosen for 18 holes can only help.
“But more than anything… it’s just staying in the moment and knowing that I’m obviously playing good golf right now,” DeLaet said. “I know that this is a tough golf course and it’s a pretty tight leaderboard, and there’s one guy in there that’s going to shoot a good round tomorrow, and I just hope that it’s me.”