AVONDALE — Call it the tournament within the tournament at the Zurich Classic of New Orleans.
If world No. 2 Luke Donald can finish in a solo seventh place or higher Sunday, he would regain the world No. 1 ranking from Rory McIlroy, who is idle this week.
Donald goes into the final round tied for eighth with Ken Duke at 12-under-par 204, having followed up a shaky 73 Thursday with sizzling rounds of 65 and 66.
Meanwhile, Masters champion and defending Zurich champion Bubba Watson can take over the top spot in the PGA Tour’s FedEx Cup rankings if he ties for 11th or better.
Watson, came here 56 points back of the idle Hunter Mahan, is tied for 16th at 9-under 207 after roaring back into contention with a Saturday 65.
In the money
Patrick Reed was beating himself up a bit Saturday for some strokes that got away, but after a 2 under 70 put him at 5 under 211, the former University High star had his eyes on a bigger prize.
Making just his fifth PGA Tour start ever and second this season, Reed is guaranteed to make a check. He goes into Sunday tied for 45th.
“I was pretty disappointed about today. I felt I left a lot out there,” said Reed, who was 4 under on his round through his first five holes. A balky driver cost him bogeys on 6, 15 and 18.
“Besides that, I hung in there today,” said Reed after rounds of 71, 70 and 70. “I’m happy to have three rounds in a row under par at a PGA Tour event. It shows my game is consistent. It isn’t quite there yet, but it’s going in the right direction.”
Reed tied for 35th at the Valero Texas Open in his native San Antonio last week, pocketing $29,915. His goal is to better that this week, though he knows it will take a strong final round to do so.
“I’m going to have to make a move,” said Reed, whose gallery included LSU golfers Austin Ernst (the 2011 NCAA women’s champion), Tessa Teachman and Landon Lyons.
Reed, who helped Augusta State to the 2010 and 2011 NCAA men’s team golf titles, now lives in Houston. His fiancé, Justine Karain, is serving as his caddy for the second straight week.
Toms finishes strong
A birdie-birdie finish helped former LSU All-American and PGA champion David Toms get into red figures Saturday, as he shot a 2-under 70 to pull into a tie for 38th at 6-under 210.
“I feel like I’m playing OK,” Toms said, “I just haven’t been able to get the ball close to the hole. I’ve been two-putting a lot of holes and going on to the next one.”
Toms did hit it close on the par-3 17th, which played shorter than normal Saturday at 176 yards. A 6-iron to 2 feet, 8 inches led to a birdie putt, which he followed with a pitch-and-putt birdie on the par-5 18th.
Toms said Pete Dye’s TPC Louisiana layout suits him fine, but the length (7,341 yards) is a big challenge.
“I don’t mind all the angles,” said Toms, who won this event in 2001 when it was played at English Turn. “It’s just when you have shorter shots the angles aren’t so bad.
“When you’re standing out there over 200 yards looking at a pin that doesn’t even look like it’s on the green, it’s a hard shot. You start trying to hit the green rather than trying to make a birdie. The guy who’s up there 170 yards with the green that’s receptive, he’s thinking, ‘I can make a birdie.’ This golf course kind of separates the field.”
The second cut
Seventy-nine players made the 36-hole cut, prompting PGA Tour officials to send threesomes off the No. 1 and 10 tees Saturday and invoking a second cut to the low 66 and ties after three rounds.
Saturday’s cut came at 1 under 215. Friday’s cut was at 1 under 143.
Among the victims of the second cut were former Zurich champion Chris Couch, PGA Tour veteran Scott Verplank and popular touring pro Tommy “Two Gloves” Gainey.
Tickets, parking, TV
Ticket prices start at $25 for a daily pass for Sunday’s final round. Parking is available for $15 at the Alario Center, 2000 Segnette Boulevard at the West Bank Expressway, with shuttle service from 6:30 a.m. -8 p.m.
Final round TV coverage on the Golf Channel is from noon-1:30 p.m., with coverage on CBS from 2-5 p.m. If the tournament runs long (as it did at last week’s Texas Open), coverage may switch back to the Golf Channel until its conclusion.
The last word
“If I could get to 20 under, I would feel pretty comfortable there. It would take a pretty low round from somebody to catch me. I’m just trying to keep going, shooting low scores.”
— Third-round leader Jason Dufner