Whose Time Will It Be at Hogan's Alley?

Michael FitzpatrickFeatured ColumnistMay 31, 2009

FT. WORTH, TX - MAY 29: Tim Clark of South Africa hits his tee shot on the 12th hole during the second round of the Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial Country Club on May 29, 2009 in Ft. Worth, Texas. (Photo by Hunter Martin/Getty Images)

With more than $12.7 million in career earnings, no one actively playing on the PGA Tour has earned more money than Tim Clark without having won a tournament.

After firing a third-round score of 66 and snatching the lead away from 36-hole leader Steve Stricker, Clark is in the best position of his career to finally break his eight-year winless streak on the PGA Tour.

But, Clark will not be the only one seeking his first PGA Tour win this afternoon.

29-year-old Steve Marino will join Clark in today’s final pairing.

Marino played his way into the final pairing with a flawless third-round 62, which included eight birdies and not a single bogey on his card.

Marino’s 62 yesterday was the low round of the tournament to this point.

Since making his way onto the PGA Tour in 2007, Marino has gotten off to a red-hot start. 

He has 12 top-10 finishes and has earned more than $4 million over the past two and a half years. But, like Clark, Marino is also in search of his first PGA Tour victory.

Teeing off 10 minutes before Clark and Marino will be the pairing of Jason Day and Steve Stricker.

21-year-old Australia native, Jason Day, will be in the same boat as Clark and Marino as he pursues his first victory on the PGA Tour.  

Coming from a country that has produced so many great players over the years, Day is considered to be Australia’s next big phenom to cross the ocean in pursuit of fame and fortune on the PGA Tour.

In his first two seasons on tour, Day has had eight top-25 and three top-10 finishes.

Day will certianly have the hometown crowd in his corner as he now calls Fort Worth, Texas home and is a member of Colonial Country Club.

Having already won four times on tour, Steve Stricker is the most accomplished player in the afternoon’s final two pairings.

However, Stricker will have his own inner demons to overcome this afternoon.

Stricker has been in a position to win three times this year.  But each time, he has been unable to close the door.

Stricker held the 54-hole lead at the Bob Hope Classic back in January, but quickly took himself out of contention during the final round by shooting two-over on the front-nine and carding a quadruple-bogey eight on the par-four 10th.

Exactly one month after his disappointing finish at the Bob Hope Classic, Stricker held the lead with just two holes left to play at the Northern Trust Open.

Stricker proceeded to bogey the 72nd hole, which was a mistake that would eventually cost him the tournament after Phil Mickelson birdied two of his last three holes en-route to his second consecutive win at Riviera Country Club.

Stricker was once again in a position to win at the Transitions Championship in March.

As he walked towards the 17th tee box, Stricker needed to birdie one of his last two holes to secure his fifth career PGA Tour win; however, the golf gods decided not to give him the nod on that Sunday afternoon, either.

Stricker bogeyed the 17th and 18th holes and fell back into a tie for fourth while Retief Goosen calmly parred his final two holes and walked away with the victory and a $972,000 check.

Stricker wouldn’t be human if thoughts of his recent final-round blunders did not at least attempt to creep into his mind today.

The way in which Stricker handles those negative thoughts will determine whether or not he is able to pass Tim Clark on the leader board and close out the tournament.  

With soft greens and almost no wind, the course is not playing overly difficult and there are at least a dozen players within striking distance of Clark.

However, having created some distance from the rest of the field, the final two groups of the day will hold their own fate in the palm of their hands.

Aside from the course setting up perfectly for Stricker’s game, he also has another advantage going for him as he tries to win his first event since the 2007 Barclays.

Stricker’s advantage is simple.

Winning your fifth PGA Tour event is always a lot easier than winning your first.


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