After all, this is a World Golf Championships event.
So it should not surprise or unnerve proponents of American golf that the leaderboard in the Bridgestone Invitational has a definite international look and feel.
Adam Scott of Australia was the 54-hole leader at the end of the third round Saturday on the South Course at Firestone Country Club with a score of 12-under 198.
One shot behind, in a tie for second at 11-under 199, were fellow Aussie Jason Day and Japan’s Ryo Ishikawa. Then came Martin Laird of Scotland and Keegan Bradley of the United States in a tie for fourth at 10-under 200.
Rounding out the top eight, in a tie for sixth at 9-under 201, were Luke Donald of England, Fredrik Jacobson of Sweden and Rickie Fowler of the United States.
That should be diverse enough to satisfy those who insist on everything being politically correct.
“It really is great for golf,” Day said about the international flavor. “I think, right now, America is kind of yearning for that next young player, whether that be Nick Watney, Rickie Fowler or one of the other young guys. I think it just shows how diverse golf is getting, which is nice.”
Besides the foreign favor, the leaderboard offers a major dose of youth, with Scott, the chasee, being 31 years old, but other challengers such as Day (23), Ishikawa (19), Bradley (25), Laird (28), Fowler (22) and 10th-place Rory McIlroy (22) still a long away from their primes.
Scott drew laughs in his post-round news conference when asked what it felt like to be far older than many of the other contenders, with the term “old man” being part of the question.
“It’s not bad, to be honest. I’m just happy to be on the leaderboard. I don’t care how old I am,” Scott said. “It’s amazing, Jason playing well again and Ryo. These guys, teenagers. It’s unbelievable. I think golf is looking in good shape for the future, really, with players like this up here now.”
On a day during which the leaderboard was in a state of flux from start to finish, Scott used three late birdies on the back nine to stand alone at the end.
After going out in 1-under 34 to stay in contention, Scott started his climb by making a 14-foot birdie putt on No. 12. He then got everyone’s attention by making a 17-foot birdie putt on No. 14 and a 29-foot birdie putt on No. 15. Scott made it three in a row when his wedge from 106 yards ended 1 foot from the cup on No. 16 for a tap-in.
Scott, who has won seven championships in his PGA Tour career, closed with two pars for a round of 4-under 66 that he wasn’t sure was possible.
“Today was a good round because I wasn’t really feeling it, although I was swinging well,” Scott said. “Just a couple shots got away from me throughout the round, and I somehow managed to straighten it out early on the back nine and played really nicely coming in, so I was very happy with this round.”
Scott, who is No. 17 in the World Golf Rankings, said a key to his round was the ability to make adjustments.
“A few holes that I tried to draw the ball off the tee, I left them out to the right,” said Scott, who is making his ninth appearance at Firestone Country Club, with a tie for ninth last year being his best finish. “I couldn’t get the ball working back to the left, and I’ve been hitting the ball really nice the other way this week, left to right. So I just went back and hit everything left to right coming in.”
Day, who is now living in the Columbus suburb of Westerville since his wife is from the Mansfield area, got off to a fast start when he eagled No. 2, reaching the green in 2 shots and making a 12-foot putt.
But he could manage only one birdie the next 12 holes and got his back nine off to a bad start with bogeys on Nos. 10 and 11.
Day then got back into serious contention when he sank a 34-foot birdie putt on No. 15 and a 13-foot birdie putt on No. 16. He moved into the tie for second on No. 18 when he put his approach shot to 6 feet and made the birdie putt to finish his day at 4-under 66.
“I was hitting great shots into the greens … but I felt I was going cold with the putter,” said Day, who is ninth on the PGA Tour money list in 2011 with earnings of $2.8 million. That’s just what it was. I just couldn’t buy one. I needed that putt on 15 to go [in] because that kick-started the round back up.”
Ishikawa, who has 11 international championships before turning 20, was tied for 10th after the second round but made a bold move with a round of 6-under 64 that included sides of 32 and no bogeys.
He made a 30-foot birdie putt on No. 1 and then a 27-foot birdie putt on No. 4. His irons helped him to three birdies on the back when he hit it inside 10 feet twice and made a 13-footer for the other one.
Ishikawa, who was one of the last players to qualify for the tournament, was humble afterward in talking through an interpreter.
“I do feel I was able to play at a high level today,” said Ishikawa, who tied for 53th in last year’s tournament at Firestone. “Actually, I am a bit surprised how I performed out there.
“There were times where I had to do some trouble shots. Hitting out from the woods. But when I was able to make those recovery shots, there were some really warm claps from the fans. So I was very happy to be out there today.”
Two fan favorites, Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson, are out of contention, with both standing at 1-over 211 and in a tie for 38th place.