2016 Pac-12 Men's Golf Championships: Senior trio in the hunt in final Pac-12 event
SALT LAKE CITY – A blustery Saturday at The Country Club in Salt Lake City yielded more than a fair share of above-par scores during the thrid round of the 2016 Pac-12 Men's Golf Championships. But while teams and individuals struggled to keep pace, it was three seniors embarking on their final weekend of Pac-12 Championships play that put themselves in position to make Sunday a memorable finale.
Arizona State's Jon Rahm, UCLA's Jonathan Garrick and Stanford's David Boote all sit tied in second place at 9-under behind Cal's KK Limbhasut for the Pac-12 individual title. And while the sophomore from Berkeley carded his third consecutive 5-under-66 round on Saturday to extend his overall lead to 15-under, unpredictable weather and a course that can produce low scores leave more than a glimmer of hope for the experienced players chasing Limbhasut.
Rahm, no stranger to national and international accolades, had a sizable gallery of curious fans following throughout the day. The world's No. 1 amateur player according to WAGR (World Amateur Golf Ranking) wasn't wasting any time trying to climb up individual leaderboard, birdeeing holes two through three to pull him within two strokes of Limbhasut. But a few wide tee shots on the back nine and a string of barely missed putts on the 16th-18th holes left potential scoring chances on the table. Despite the missed opportunities, the Spanish-born Sun Devil seemed optimistic about his chances heading into Sunday.
"I have to look at the weather forecast for tomorrow," Rahm joked. "No, I'm just going to keep doing what I'm doing. I'm putting really well. I'm confident."
Garrick, who entered the day three strokes off the lead, seemed to save some of his shots for last. Unlike Rahm, the only American of the trio birdeed just once in his first nine holes of the day (the course's back nine). His key weapon instead was consistency. Just a single bogey marred The Bruin's scorecard before he birdeed the final two holes of the day and now carries a decent amount of confidence heading into Sunday.
"Right now I'm four or five shots back," said Garrick after the round, "so I know I'll have to shoot at least four, five, six-under with how well KK is playing...Just try and go out and make some more putts."
For Garrick and Rahm, an individual championship is their only realistic shot at hardware this weekend barring a catastrophic collapse. While the Bruins sit in sixth place and the Sun Devils are tied for fourth place, both respectable positions, they are 47 and 39 strokes off the pace of first-place Stanford, respectively.
Which brings us to the third man trying to unseat Limbhasut from atop the individual leaderboard, David Boote. The native of Surrey, England could help Stanford go for a clean sweep on Sunday. Boote first made a run at Limbhasut in Friday's second round with a 5-under-66 to pull him within two strokes of the Golden Bear. He seemed unable to find the same rhythm on Saturday, negating two birdees on the 4th and 6th holes with bogeys on the 7th and 15th. He did finish on a high-note, birdeeing the 18th hole to pull him into the three-way tie.
Now it comes down to one not-so simple question. Can the sophomore from Berkeley maintain his hot pace (and perhaps be consistent enough to post his fourth 5-under-66 round)? Or will it be one of the three conference veterans who will be finishing their final Pac-12 round that can find it within to take home the individual championship? Only Sunday will tell.