ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. (AP) — Davis Love III might have found the perfect tonic for any Ryder Cup hangover — playing golf, and playing well on a Sea Island course he knows better than anyone.
In his third straight tournament since his U.S. team lost a big lead on the final day at Medinah, Love hit a 6-iron to 3 feet on the 17th hole that put him in the final group going into the weekend at the McGladrey Classic, where he is becoming more than just a tournament host.
Love was one shot behind Arjun Atwal, who is running out of time to keep his PGA Tour card. Atwal made an adjustment in his putting stroke earlier in the week and watched it pay off in a big way at Sea Island for a 63, his best score of the year.
Atwal, whose two-year exemption from winning in Greensboro, N.C., expires this year, is No. 175 on the money list and has only two tournaments left to finish in the top 125. He opened with three straight birdies and took the outright lead with a wedge into 5 feet on the fifth hole, his 14th of the round.
"I'm in a desperate situation," Atwal said. "I got no choice — either win or finish in the top two. So I've just got to grind it out."
Atwal was at 10-under 130, though this tournament has a distinct Ryder Cup feel going into the final two days.
It starts with Love, the American captain, who moved to Sea Island when he was 14. What helped more than his course knowledge was switching to a belly putter that doesn't quite reach his belly, and not even his shirt "unless it's untucked." Brian Bateman, who is much shorter than Love, once used it as a belly putter and Love figures the fact that it's a heavy club and has a different look could only help him.
"I've been messing around with this putter for well over a year, I just haven't had the nerve to put it in play," Love said. "But I had two pro-ams this week so I said, 'This is the best time — my home greens, two pro-ams on my home course.' So I tried it out and the first day I used it, I made eight birdies. So it worked."
Love was tied with Jim Furyk, who hasn't played since his bogey-bogey finish in the Ryder Cup and is making his final PGA Tour appearance of the year. Furyk was plodding along Sea Island, a few birdies on his card, when he rolled in an 18-foot birdie putt on the 14th, converted a two-putt birdie from 100 feet away just off the green, and made a third straight birdie on the 16th from about 12 feet. He wound up with a 65.
"I felt a little rusty on the way in," Furyk said. "I have a lot of confidence in my ball striking right now, but when you don't play a lot, sometimes it's the course management, making the good decisions. And so far that's all kind of coming back to me slowly and I've kind of gained momentum as the last two rounds have gone on."
David Toms was tied with them until he made bogey on the final hole for a 67, though he was still only two shots out of the lead. Bud Cauley, who shared the first-round lead, wasn't as crisp with his irons and had to settle for a 70. He also was two behind, still in great shape as he pursues his first PGA Tour win. Gavin Coles joined them at 132 after six birdies in a round of 65.
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