Thatcher takes lead in RTO
RENO – Roland Thatcher finds himself in uncharted territory. In 17 previous PGA starts, the 28-year-old has never been a 54-hole leader.
However, after finishing with three consecutive birdies for a 4-under 68 in windy conditions, Thatcher, takes a one-shot lead into today’s final round of the $3 million Reno-Tahoe Open at Montreux Golf & Country Club.
Thatcher, who also had a 68 in the rain-delayed second round earlier in the day, is at 202. Vaughn Taylor, the second-round leader, double-bogeyed No. 15 and bogeyed No. 18, en route to a 69 and a 203 total. Steve Allan and Hunter Mahan are at 204. Bill Haas is alone in fifth at 206.
The first tee time today is at 7:15 a.m., and the leaders will tee off around noon.
It was a long day for Thatcher, Haas and Allan, all of whom had to play more than 30 holes on Saturday because of Friday’s rain delay.
There are two common themes among the top five players. All are 30 or below (Haas and Mahan are 22) and none of them have won a PGA Tour title. The Baby Boomers have taken over the tournament – at least for now.
“Today was really a test mentally all day,” said Thatcher, who did win a Nationwide Tour tournament after leading through three rounds. “It didn’t feel like the course played that easy from start to finish. The wind was blowing 15-to-20 miles an hour
“I was hoping we (Thatcher and Taylor) would both run away. It was an exciting day for everyone out there.”
Taylor and Thatcher enjoyed a five-stroke lead over Corey Pavin midway through the third round, but both had meltdowns on the back nine.
Thatcher three-putted 12, 13 and 15, bogeying all three holes. He managed to rebound with three straight birdies, sinking putts of 17, 7 and 2 feet.
“When I have a mental breakdown, it shows up in my putting,” Thatcher said. “Fortunately, I was able to regroup ad put together a good finish. I’m sitting in pretty good shape right now.
“There’s a lot riding on it (today). You have to go out and play the best you can. Hopefully it will be good enough. I want to go out on a positive note early.”
He did that again on Saturday, registering birdies on four of the first five holes. He sank an 8-foot putt on No. 1, an 18-footer on the par-3 second, a 15-footer on the 429-yard par-4 third and an 11-footer on the 367-yard fifth hole.
Taylor, meanwhile double-bogeyed 15 after missing the fairway and a 2-foot bogey putt, and he three-putted on 18 from 24 feet. He went from leading by three strokes at 15 to trailing by a stroke.
“I felt good this afternoon,” said Taylor. “I hit some really good shots on the front nine, and made some good putts. The back nine I lost my swing and missed a couple of short putts.”
The 3-foot 10-inch putt that slid by on No. 18 was a killer.
“I have no idea (what happened),” he said. “When I hit it, I pushed it. I knew I had missed it as soon as it came off the face.”
Taylor also got off to a fast start on the front, sinking a 16-foot birdie putt on No. 3, and following that up with an eagle on the par-5 518-yard fourth hole. Taylor cranked out a 295-yard drive and then hit his next shot 223 yards, leaving him with a 33-foot putt which he dropped in.
Despite shooting his third straight 68, Allan had problems putting on the front side, bogeying Nos. 2, 6 and 7.
“I was struggling the first eight holes (with the putter),” Allan said. “I had a couple of three putts. I got good feel with the putter (on No. 9).”
Allan drained a 14-foot birdie putt on No. 9, and went on to shoot 31 on the back nine, including an eagle on the 584-yard 11th. On the 11th, he hit a 4-wood from 260 yards away that landed 2 feet from the flag. After bogeying No. 12, he made five-foot birdie putts on the next two holes. After a par at 15, he nailed an 11-foot birdie putt on the par-3 17th, and he two-putted from 53 feet for a birdie on No. 18.
Mahan jumped into contention when he eagled No. 18 from 76 yards to go 10-under par. He was 4-under on the back nine after shooting an even-par 36 on the front.
Haas also had an eagle on the back side, sinking a 39-yard bunker shot on the par-5 17th. Haas tied Allan on the back nine with a 31. He had birdies on 13, 14 and 18.
Contact Darrell Moody at firstname.lastname@example.org or 881-1281.