Yang, Klauk, and Overton May Spring Forward at the 2009 Honda Classic

Y.E. Yang driving at the 2009 Honda Classic. Photo Credit: Bill Ingram /The Palm Beach Post

Y.E. Yang driving at the 2009 Honda Classic. Photo Credit: Bill Ingram /The Palm Beach Post

Korean Y.E. Yang stayed in place on top of the leader board when all the moving was over on Saturday. So did Jeff Overton, who remains tied for second place one stroke behind.

Both shot even par 70 on the tough and demanding Champion golf course at PGA National in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida. Jeff Klauk moved into a tie with Overton coming all the way from seventh place by shooting an impressive 67.

None of these players have won a PGA TOUR event although Yang has won five times in Japan and his native Korea.

Right behind them two strokes off the lead are Charles Wi, Brett Quigley, and John Rollins. Of those three, John Rollins is the only one who has won on the PGA TOUR—twice, the last being the 2006 B.C. Open presented by Turning Stone.

He has 238 career starts while Quigley trumps that as a winless tour veteran with 339 starts. Wi, also Korean, has 84 starts and nine international victories.

Further behind at three strokes off the lead but certainly not out of it is the ultimate tour veteran Mark Calcavecchia. Bear-like in some physical respects he got caught in course designer Jack Nicklaus’ famous Bear Trap to fall out of contention last year on Sunday afternoon.

The sand shot on the par-three 15th hole that would never stop and kept rolling and rolling across the hardened green ending up on the rocks in the water hazard. His Sunday 73 resulted in a fourth-place tie, three strokes behind winner Ernie Els.

“Calc” has 498 career starts, 13 PGA TOUR victories including a Major in the memorable playoff win over Greg Norman and Wayne Grady at Royal Troon in the 1989 British Open.

There are five other players tied with Calcavecchia. Swede Fredrik Jacobson has played in 125 PGA TOUR events with no ultimate success though he has won three times internationally.

Ben Crane (169 starts, two victories, most recent was 2005 U.S. Bank Championship) who aced the par-three fifth hole on Saturday to only double bogey the ninth and nearby 11th hole later in the day.

Jason Dufner, Q-School graduate with 84 starts shot 68 on Saturday to move up from 13th to seventh place. Will MacKenzie who faltered with a 72 in the third round has 110 starts and two victories including last fall’s Viking Classic.

Local resident Robert Allenby the sentimental favorite mourning the recent loss of his mother had some quirky lies that resulted in a double bogey on the par-five third hole and bogeys coming in on Nos. 13 & 14.

Maybe all the breaks will come his way in the final round resulting in his first victory since 2001 in 310 PGA TOUR starts.

Tournament leader Y.E. Yang with 46 PGA TOUR starts wants to avoid going back to Q-School needs the putts to fall on Sunday and shoot under par to have a legitimate chance to win.

“I just didn’t make the putts that I needed to, the birdie putts. All five of the birdie chances I had missed the hole ever so slightly. I think that was the big difference, not being able to make the putts.”

He may be hoping that no shoots a 65 and comes out of the pack.

“So I’ve just got to stay very patient, and when I get those birdie opportunities, try to make them, otherwise, I think it will be difficult without shooting at least one or two under to win.”

Ernie Els won last year with a 274 total (six-under) while Mark Wilson’s total was 275 (five-under).

Maybe an even par round by Yang will do it but a 67 and 270 total (10-under) is more convincing given the number of pursuers.

Jeff Klauk, a 31-year old rookie is playing in only his eighth PGA TOUR event. He has won three times on the Nationwide Tour and earned his tour card by finishing third last year.

When asked if there is any difference between winning the Honda Classic and a Nationwide event he replied:

“Nothing, except the surroundings I guess. It’s just 18 holes of golf, and you’ve got to really approach it that way. It’s a much bigger stage, but you can’t really worry about that. You just have to get in your own little world and just fairways and greens and just try to play like it’s any other round.”

He has the pedigree to be a PGA TOUR champion, maybe even a Major champion some day. His father Fred was golf course superintendent at TPC Sawgrass before retiring after last year’s PLAYERS championship.

The elder Klauk earned the 2000 Golfweek’s 2000 Golf Father-of-the-Year award for having passed his love of golf down to his three sons. He set up golf courses for 27 PGA TOUR events including 22 PLAYERS.

He even prepared Eagle Trace for the Honda and Jeff has memories of it as an eight-year old. “I remember sitting up on 18 with my dad in the cart watching the guys finish. It’s neat to be on the other side of it.”

It would be really neat if he can make this year’s Honda Classic his first PGA TOUR victory.

Klauk is a hard worker and though given opportunities in life it is his performance that earns him the respect of those in the game of golf. He played six weeks straight from the SONY Open in Hawaii to the Northern Trust Open at Riviera before taking a break last week.

With a tie for twelfth at the SONY and a tie for eleventh at the Buick Invitational he is poised to breakthrough with a win. “It’s just great to be in this position. I expect to be in this position.

I’m not out here just for a year and that’s it and go back to the Nationwide Tour. This is where I want to be, and contend and win tournaments on the PGA TOUR.”

Jeff Overton with 85 career starts was wearing all white on Saturday survived a triple bogey seven on the 11th hole and birdied three of the last six holes coming in. Though his mistakes were costly he is in a position to win this tournament.

On 11, he misjudged the wind and his approach landed in the water well short of the green. His next attempt cleared the hazard but hit the bank and rolled down into the muck. Though playable due to the south Florida draught conditions he chose not to go in after it.

“Yeah, I thought about it and I had this nice, great, white outfit on. I would rather just go ahead and have the extra shot than get it all muddy.” It will be interesting and hopefully not funny to see if he needs that one stroke at the end of the Honda Classic on Sunday afternoon.

A million guys probably would have put the rain suit on or taken the white pants off but then again there is only one Jeff Overton and there will be only one 2009 Honda Classic champion.

Mark Calcavecchia, the always competitive veteran turns 49 in June and the associated two-year exemption would dovetail nicely with his 2007 Pods victory giving him plenty of PGA and Champions Tour options.

“Last year I had a good chance. I said last year, if I can keep my ball out of the water all day long, I’d have a good chance and I hit three balls in the water last year, including that bunker shot on 15.

“So we’ll try to erase that memory. If I can keep my ball dry tomorrow, like I said last year, I may have a good chance.”

His scores have improved every day—Thursday 74, Friday 67, Saturday 65. He made the biggest move on moving day climbing all the way up to seventh from 36th place. A Sunday 65 would definitely earn him his third Honda Classic title and one in each of the last three decades (1987, 1998, and 2009).

Brett Quigley is taking a relaxed approach. “I’m just trying to go have fun. That’s what I’m doing all week, just not really worried about playing golf. I’m sure I’ll be thinking about it tomorrow, but I know if I can just think about playing golf when I’m out there, I might have a chance to win.”

What would a PGA TOUR victory mean to him? “If I finish tomorrow, if I’m atop the leader board, that’s great. That’s something I’ve wanted to do my whole life.”

All said there are 18 players within five shots of Yang. A 64 or 65 is not out of the question. With the Bear Trap looming no doubt it will be an exciting Sunday back nine. Will it be a relative newcomer that secures that first victory or a grizzly veteran that snatches up another one?

With the end of daylight savings time there will be an extra hour of sunshine tomorrow evening with plenty of time for a playoff. Who knows what will spring forward at that time.