Virginia Open: Am O'Neill in 2nd place
MIDLOTHIAN, Va. (July 21, 2013) –– An eagle-birdie start to the back nine propelled defending champion Jay Woodson to a 3-under-par 68 in Saturday’s third round of the State Open of Virginia and a seven-stroke advantage going into Sunday’s finale.

Woodson, a 31-year-old professional from Powhatan who plays on the developmental NGA Tour, has compiled a 54-hole total of 12-under 201 on the 7,026-yard, par-71 Independence Golf Club layout.

Counting the last three rounds of last year’s championship, Woodson has posted six consecutive scores in the 60s in the State Open.

Woodson began the third round with a four-stroke advantage over amateur Chris O’Neill, 20, of Glen Allen who held on to second place at 5-under 208 by shooting 71 on Saturday. Cameron Yancey of Blackstone, the low professional in the 2010 State Open, moved into the third spot and into today’s final pairing with a 4-under 67 and is at 3-under 210.

Five players are at 2-under 211: PGA professional John O’Leary (73) of Reston; PGA assistant professional Robert Taylor (73) of Zion Crossroads; 2005 State Open champion Ted Brown of Richmond, whose 66 was the low score of the third round; past VSGA Amateur champion Scott Shingler (71) of Haymarket and two-time VSGA Amateur finalist Ji Soo Park (71) of Clifton.

Richmond amateurs Chris Kapsak and Mark Lawrence Jr. are at 1-under 212 after posting 67 and 70 respectively.

The number of competitors in red figures dwindled to 10 from 18.

Woodson won back-to-back VSGA Amateur titles in 2002-03 and is on track to become the first player to successfully defend a State Open championship since amateur Keith Decker did it in 2002 after winning in 2001.

No professional has won back-to-back State Open titles since the Virginia State Golf Association and Middle Atlantic Section of the PGA of America merged separate Opens in 1985. Bobby Wadkins won three consecutive VPGA Opens from 1981-83.

Woodson began last year’s final round with a one-shot lead and won by four. The last State Open runaway was in 2011 when amateur Dr. Roger Newsom led by six after 54 holes and won by eight strokes.

“I’ve got the same game plan that I’ve had the whole week, and I’m going to stick with it and stay focused on what I can control,” Woodson said.

Woodson is coming off his best finish of the year in an NGA Tour event. He shot 15 under and finished seventh in Mississippi last week in his first outing since his wife, Erin, gave birth to their son, Trey, on June 15.

The eagle and birdie on the back nine “were pretty much the only highlights of the day,” Woodson said. “I felt I could have been two or three under on the front and walked away with even par (two birdies and two bogeys).

To encourage players to drive to drive the green on the par-4 10th, the tees were moved to 295 yards. Woodson hit his 3-wood 5 feet from the hole and sank the putt. He rolled in a 20-foot birdie putt on No. 11.

He also sank 3- to 4-foot par putts at Nos. 12 and 13 and holed a 5-footer for par at No. 14 after a magnificent flop shot from deep rough behind the green.

“That was pretty good,” Woodson said. “That’s one of those shots where you get up there and you don’t have any other option … Sometimes when your back is against the wall, you really focus and you pull it off. I actually hit it better than I thought I was going to hit it.”

O’Neill, a Deep Run High graduate and the No. 1 player on the University of Michigan golf team this season as a freshman, was frustrated by a day of driving the ball well, but not hitting second shots close and not making any putts. He had one birdie and one bogey.

“I just didn’t have a feel for the greens today. I wasn’t even hitting good putts,” O’Neill said. “It’s some mechanical things I can work on and come back tomorrow. He’s playing so well he’s going to be pretty much impossible to catch, but I’m going to give it my best shot.”

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