McCarron and Mahan burn up course early

Scott McCarron finished his third round of the AT&T National with four straight birdies. (Isaac Brekken/AP file photo)

Hunter Mahan and Scott McCarron seemed like best friends after they torched the course at Aronimink during the third round of the AT&T National on Saturday.

Mahan birdied three of the first four holes, then added two more birdies and a bogey to finish the round with a 4-under 66. And McCarron shot even-par on the front nine, before exploding for five birdies, including one on each of the final four holes to finish 5-under on the day.

"It was a good round," McCarron said. "I got off to a bit of a slow start and watched my player competitor, Hunter Mahan, birdie three out of the first four."

Mahan was just a few feet away.

"Kinda got us going there," McCarron said to Mahan.

"You could say I inspired you," Mahan quipped.

"He really inspired me today," McCarron deadpanned, on cue. "It was very inspiring. But he got out playing great, got a couple of birdies and I hadn’t made many birdies this week. And I just kinda followed in his wake. Played pretty good, righted the ship."

After the third round, Mahan was at 1-under on the tournament and McCarron was at 2-under, both still a ways behind K.J. Choi’s 7-under mark. But there’s still golf to be played.

Mahan started the streak by making birdie putts of 14 feet, nine feet and 10 feet respectively on Nos. 1, 3 and 4. He also hit 10-of-14 fairways and hit 83 percent of his greens in regulation.

McCarron, who turns 46 next week and has won three times on tour but not since 2001, made birdie putts of 15 and 21 feet and then he had two two tap-ins on 17 and 18.

"I thought the course played great today, they changed the set-up a little bit on a few holes," McCarron said. "They moved the tees up on a par-4, No. 13, which I thought was great. Gave us a chance to go for it, even though I made par there. And then, great set-up on 17, with the tees up, with the pin very, very difficult. The course played a little bit different today, which I thought they did a really good job."

Mahan seemed frustrated after each of his first two rounds. The course was playing tougher then, and he wasn’t grabbing birdies on the few hole in which he did have the opportunity.

For two players who just barely made the cut — each at 3-over after 36 holes — Saturday was quite the morning as they combined to finish 9-under on the round. They totaled 11 birdies and just two bogeys.

And McCarron ended the round with an exclamation point.

"I felt some good momentum," McCarron said. "But like they always say, I was trying to stay one shot and a time. Focus on that next shot. But I hit some real nice shots down the stretch, made some good putts. That’s a good finish.

"Anytime you birdie the last couple of holes like that, makes you lunch taste a whole lot better."

--Tim Rohan