Sep 22, 2007 Phil Blackwell Uncategorized
If Steve Flesch goes on and wins the inaugural Turning Stone Resort Championship, he might point to the end of Saturday’s third round at Atunyote Golf Club as the moment where it all turned in his favor.
Tied for the lead going to the 14th hole, Flesch fired off four birdies on his last five holes and, by doing so, seized a four-shot lead over Carl Pettersson and Charles Warren going into Sunday’s final 18.
Flesch, with a 66, finished at 19-under-par 197, with Pettersson and Warren at 201. Only one other player, Parker McLachlin, is within six shots of Flesch, whose 19 under ties the lowest score in relation to par after 54 holes of any PGA Tour event this year.
After two days of calm conditions, the winds kicked up on Saturday, gusting up to 25 miles per hour and changing the character of Atunyote.
Some easy holes turned into brutes, while the 9th,the most difficult hole on Thursday and Friday, was dead downwind and played under par for a while in the third round. And the 18th, a 624-yard par-5, was reached in two by some players.
Early on, former British Open champion Justin Leonard and Sean O’Hair each posted rounds of 66 to finish at 205. McLachlin, with no top-10s to his credit in 2007 on the PGA Tour, fared even better with 65, the low round of the day, to move into fourth place at 203.
Both of Flesch’s closest pursuers after 36 holes, Brendon de Jonge and Jeff Gove, would fall back. Going out in 39, de Jonge slipped back to nine under, while Gove shared the lead at one point, only to suffer a pair of double bogeys on the back nine to fall to eight under.
After birdies at 2 and 5 to get to 15 under, Flesch struck again at the 185-yard, par-3 6th, where his laser iron nearly went into the cup for an ace, settling six inches from the hole for a tap-in birdie.
At the turn, Flesch, with a 33 (he finally parred the 9th after a double bogey and bogey the first two days), was 16 under, three shots ahead of McLachlin. But a poor chip at the 11th led to bogey, leaving Flesch at 15 under, vulnerable to a charge.
Petterrson provided that charge. Best known for winning the 2006 Memorial Tournament (where Jack Nicklaus is the founder and host), Pettersson had gone out in 33, including an eagle at the par-5 5th hole, to move to 12 under.
On the 13th, made much more difficult by the gusty winds (Gove would take double bogey there), Pettersson birdied, and he added two more birdies on 16 and 17 that, at the time, tied him with Flesch at 15 under. All three of Pettersson’s birdie putts were 11 feet or longer.
Just as Pettersson lipped out a birdie putt on 18 and finished with his second consecutive 66, Flesch began to surge home.
With a creek bordering the left side, the par-4 14th can be quite dangerous. Flesch made it look simple, though, cracking an iron to three feet and making birdie. He did the same at 15, and a 15-foot putt on the 17th fell to put him at 18 under.
Flesch laid up 18 near the water hazard, and his approach shot landed 15 feet above the hole. With a deft touch, his putt trickled down the slope and found the hole, building Flesch’s lead to four with just 18 holes left.
Pettersson is joined in the second spot by Warren, who does not have a PGA Tour win. He nearly reached the 18th in two, leading to a closing birdie and a round of 68.
Michael Allen, who has gone through the PGA Tour Qualifying School 13 times (and made it nine times), shares fifth place at 204 with Bill Haas, son of golfing great Jay Haas. No less than 10 players are at 205, including Leonard and O’Hair.
Both local rooting interests are at 209. David Branshaw (Oswego) got there with a 69, while Joey Sindelar had a 73, his otherwise solid round ruined by a triple-bogey 7 on the 13th.