Taylor leads the RTO | NevadaAppeal.com

Taylor leads the RTO

Reno-Tahoe Open defending champion Vaughn Taylor hits off the 18th tee during the Reno-Tahoe Open at Montreux Golf & Country Club in Reno, Nev., on Saturday, Aug. 20, 2005. Taylor shot an 8-under-par 64 to bring his three-day total to 21-under-par and a six-stroke lead going into Sunday's championship. AP Photo Brad Horn/Nevada Appeal

RENO – It’s been a record-setting week for Vaughn Taylor, and he’s not done yet.

Taylor fired his second 8-under-par 64 Saturday to take a commanding six-shot lead over Todd Fischer heading into the final round of the 7th annual Reno-Tahoe Open at Montreux Golf & Country Club.

Taylor’s 54-hole score of 195 on the 7,472-yard course obliterated the RTO record of 201 set by Jerry Kelly in 2001, and barring a disaster today, he is sure to break the 72-hole record shared by John Cook, Chris Riley, Jonathan Kaye and Kirk Triplett.

If Taylor can complete his task, he’ll be the fifth wire-to-wire winner on the PGA Tour this season, joining Phil Mickelson (AT&T Pebble Beach), Tiger Woods (British Open), Ben Crane (U.S. Bank Championship) and Justin Leonard (FedEx St. Jude Classic). Not too shabby. He would also become the first RTO repeat champion.

Veteran Jesper Parnevik is alone in third at 202 after a third-round 67. There is a three-way tie for fourth at 203 between Aaron Baddeley (66), Kaye (68) and Fredrik Jacobson (68). J.P. Hayes is seventh at 204 after a 5-under-par 67 and Dean Wilson moved up to eighth at 206 after a 6-under-par 66.

Taylor has been a birdie machine all week, making 24 birdies and only three bogeys. All of his birdies (eight) on Saturday were from less than 9 feet, including two inside a foot.

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“I played well again today,” he said. “I got off to a good start (four straight birdies at one point). I was really hitting it well on the front side. I hardly missed a shot. Hitting it close to the hole, I was really feeling it. I can’t remember having so many tap-ins and 2 or 3-footers for birdie.

“I struggled a little bit coming home; just my normal tendencies coming out. If I keep working on them I’ll be fine. A 6-shot lead is definitely a lot. I’m going to go out there and keep my game plan and play golf. Hopefully (experience last year) will help. You get more comfortable each time.”

If he does that, Fischer and Parnevik will be hard-pressed to catch him.

“Sixty-four, three or two,” Fischer responded when asked what score it would take to catch Taylor. “If the conditions stay the same, that would be the number. He played good, but not all that good on the back. He’s playing good enough where he doesn’t have to do much, fairways and greens.”

“He’s obviously playing real well, and keeping aggressive,” said Parnevik, who will be in the final pairing with Fischer and Taylor at 11:30 a.m. “When you get a huge lead all of a sudden, sometimes you start to play a little bit safer and all of a sudden you let some guys catch up. He seems to love this course, so it’s going to be a challenge for everyone.”

Especially if he puts together birdies like he did in the third round.

He drained a 9-footer on No. 1 to go 14-under, and after a par on No. 2, he strung together birdies on the next three holes to go 17-under, sinking putts of 5, 1 and 5 feet respectively. After three straight pars, he closed out the front side with a 3-footer for birdie and a nifty 31.

He continued his birdie binge on the 494-yard 10th with a 170-yard approach shot to 3 feet for another tap-in. On the 584-yard par-5 11th, he chipped to inside a foot from 52 yards out to get to 20 under, and he still had seven holes left.

Taylor parred the next five holes, including a nifty 10-foot par-saving putt on No. 15 after his worst tee shot of the day. He drained a 4 1/2 footer for birdie on No. 17 and then parred No. 18.

“I lost my spine angle there (on 15),” Taylor said. “I hit a plain block. I tend to lose my spine angle through the shot. I get underneath the ball and it causes me to hit it both ways. That was happening on the back nine.”

Taylor should know that in RTO history, there isn’t such a thing as a safe lead. In 2000, Scott Verplank came from five back to win. In 2001, John Cook was six back and won, and in 2003 Kirk Triplett came from five back to win.

Both Fischer and Parnevik are certainly capable of shooting a low number, and Fischer proved that by finishing with five straight birdies.

“My finish was great,” Fischer said. “I talked the other day about momentum and how things, when they are not going right, it’s a dead day. I’ve had five or six really bad lipouts this week and No. 1 was one of them. To start the day like that … if that goes in I start the day with some good, positive energy.

“It’s not like I had negative energy, but I haven’t played well on the front. I am 15-under on the back nine itself and I’m over par on the par-5s on the front. If I can get through the front side tomorrow, I may be able to pick up something on him. To hang in there like that, I’m proud of myself.”

Fischer was referring to how he rebounded from back-to-back bogeys on Nos. 8 and 9, which dropped him eight shots behind Taylor at the turn. Taylor parred the next four holes before his barrage of birdies.

He sank a 6 1/2 footer for birdie on the par-4 14th, and followed up with a 10 1/2 footer on the par-4 15th. He drained a 2-footer on the par-3 16th to go 13-under, trimming the lead to seven strokes. He two-putted from 14 feet for his birdie on No. 17 and knocked in an 8-footer to finish his round.

Parnevik was nine back after 15 holes, but he drained a 16-footer for birdie on No. 16 and followed that up with an eagle when he chipped in from 38 feet to go 14-under and get back in the fray.

“The birdie on 16 and the eagle on 17 gave me a very small chance, but if he keeps playing like he’s playing, there’s not much we can do about it,” Parnevik said. “Nothing did happen today for me. I really struggled on the front nine to make something happen. I had to three-putt on nine for par. I could tell the tournament was getting away from me.

“If I can get off to a good start tomorrow, you never know. Even though seven shots is a huge lead, especially around here when you’re not likely to stumble too badly. The other guys have to shoot in low 60s to have a chance.”

Darrell Moody can be reached at dmoody@nevadaappeal.com, or by calling (775) 881-1281