UNLV Riley starts round with five birdies, shares third round lead with Jonathan Kaye and Steve Flesch | NevadaAppeal.com

UNLV Riley starts round with five birdies, shares third round lead with Jonathan Kaye and Steve Flesch

Jeremy Evans

RENO — Craig Stadler made the most noise on Saturday at the Reno-Tahoe Open , but it will be Chris Riley, Jonathan Kaye and Steve Flesch who will go into the final round as the co-leaders at 12-under par.

Starting the day six shots back of the leaders, the 49-year-old Stadler fired a 7-under 65 at Montreux Golf and Country Club, two shots shy of the course record. Riley, though, started off even hotter, with birdies on the first five holes. The 1996 UNLV graduate then had an up and down round with three bogeys and three birdies.

“I had a number going into today that I wanted for tomorrow (Sunday),” said Riley, who figured he needed to get to 12 or 13-under to have a chance at winning. “I had a pretty incredible start. I hit a good putt on No. 6 (but missed it), then said ‘there goes the stretch.'”

Riley then bogeyed Nos. 7 and 8, the two holes that have troubled him this week. Riley said he’s played those two holes at 5-over while the rest of the holes he’s played at 17-under. Kaye, meanwhile, had a solid, bogey free round. He birdied Nos. 5, 6 and 11, all with putts within three feet.

Flesch, who started the second round as co-leader at 10-under, had three birdies and one bogey during his round of 70. If any of the three leaders end up winning the 4th annual RTO, it will be a first for whoever does.

“That’s pretty unique, three guys (on top of the leader board) looking for their first win,” Flesch said.

Riley has a second place finish, Kaye has two of them, and Flesch is considered the best player on tour not to have won, even though he’s had leads at three tournaments.

“We’re all hungry,” Kaye said. “It should be interesting to watch, that’s for sure. Everybody out here is a great player. I can only worry about myself and that’s all I intend to do. I won’t watch the leader boards too much until the end.”

The same goes for Riley, who finished third at last week’s PGA Championship.

“I’m going to try and not look at the leader board,” Riley said. “All that does is put added pressure and distraction. It doesn’t really matter who’s on the leader board. I’m just gonna’ go out and make birdies.”

The consensus among the leaders is that the winning score will be somewhere around 16-under. Other than Flesch, there has been different leaders after each round the past two years at Montreux.

Riley, who has a half dozen top 10 finishes the past two years, wants that trend to end today. Riley, a four-time All-American at UNLV, thinks it’s time to win one.

“Really the last four years on tour I’ve been solid,” said Riley, who has earned more than $3 million on tour since 1999. “I think it’s all building up to this point. I’m really looking forward to the challenge tomorrow. I know 12-under is not going to win the golf tournament.”

Stadler got to 12-under on Saturday before his double bogey the par-3 16th canceled any chances of tying the course record. On No. 16, Stadler’s tee shot landed in the pond, his third shot in the green side bunker, then he got up and down to drop back to 10-under. He came back to birdie the par-5 17th.

Eight golfers are within three shots of the leaders going into today’s final round. Flesch and Stadler tee off at 12:21 p.m. and Riley and Kaye tee off at 12:30 p.m.

“I think, with favorable conditions, anybody from 7, 8 (under) on has a chance,” Flesch said.