PALM HARBOR — For much of Saturday's third round at the Valspar Championship, it looked as if the race was for second place. Second-round leader Robert Garrigus carded three birdies on the front nine and held a comfortable four-shot lead.
Then the gap started to close.
Garrigus came back to the field with two back-nine bogeys and no birdies to finish his day with 1-under 70 on Innisbrook's Copperhead Course. He still had the lead, at 8-under 205, but he was just one shot ahead of Kevin Na, two ahead of John Senden and three of Justin Rose.
"I was hitting it really well, and then I flinched on a putt on 12," said Garrigus, who bogeyed the hole. "It kind of made me a little tentative the rest of the day.
"That happens to everyone. I've seen it a hundred times. You miss one of those short ones and you don't give the rest the run at it like you normally would."
The back nine was the first time Garrigus ran into trouble in the tournament. A bad sign came on the par-5 11th hole when he made par. That broke a streak of 10 straight birdies on par 5s.
"I broke that streak, which I was a little upset about," Garrigus said. "I wanted to keep that going."
That was followed by his bad par putt on 12, where he lipped out a 5-footer.
"I didn't start that ball where I wanted to," Garrigus said. "I read too much break."
He managed to keep it together until the 18th hole. An errant drive, an average chip and a missed putt from 4 feet led to another bogey.
"That's golf," Garrigus said. "I'm still in a good position."
Na remained consistent in shooting 3-under 68. He had two birdies on the front nine but dropped a stroke with bogey on the par-4 10th hole. That broke a streak of 45 straight holes without a bogey.
Na bounced back with birdie on the 11th hole and another on the par-3 15th hole.
"I thought I played very well," he said. "On the back nine I had a few bad swings, but my short game bailed me out."
Na has yet to win this season, but he thinks he has a good chance today. He has one career victory on the PGA Tour, which came in 2011.
"I've been playing very well this year," he said. "I've had a pretty successful career, but I lack in wins. It's time for me to catch up."
The final group became a threesome for most of the back nine. Garrigus and Na were joined by a rules official who timed the duo after warnings of slow pay. Though they finished in just under four hours, Garrigus and Na were as many as two holes behind the group ahead of them.
Both players were warned for slow play — Na on 13, Garrigus on 14 — and one more would have meant a one-shot penalty.
Senden shot 7-under 64 and jumped into third place. His bogey-free round put him in striking distance, where he has been before at this tournament. In 2008 he tied for second at Innisbrook.
"I was finally able to take it from the range to the golf course," Senden said. "My goal (Saturday) was to keep the same speed all day — my swing speed, my walking, my whole routine — and I did that."
Behind Rose (68) at 5 under was a group of three four shots back that included Retief Goosen, who tied Senden for low round of the day. And in a group of three at 3 under was Luke Donald (67), the 2012 winner at Innisbrook.
Garrigus knew several players would be chasing him today. He said he didn't plan on being conservative in the final round.
"If I shoot under par (today), they're going to have to come get me," he said. "That's what I plan on doing. I can't just make pars and win the golf tournament."