by Ron Baliki
RUMFORD, R.I. (June 24, 2011) -– Peter Uihlein described his second-round, 1-under 68 as a grind. He went on to explain that most people will have one of those in a four-round tournament, and even though he “scraped it around,” there are 36 holes left and a lot can happen.
A lot did happen in Friday’s third round at the 50th Northeast Amateur Invitational at Wannamoisett Country Club. Uihlein emerged as the leader of the birdie barrage that took place on the par-69, Donald Ross-designed gem of a course.
The reigning U.S. Amateur champion put up a 7-under 62 and charged to the top of the leaderboard with his 11-under 196, a tournament record. That topped the previous 54-hole low of 8-under 199 from Kyle Reifers in 2005.
“I hit the ball a lot better today,” said Uihlein, a rising senior at Oklahoma State and a first-team All-American. “I hit it a lot closer (to the hole) and drove the ball well. And obviously I made some putts.”
Uihlein, who went 4-0 in leading the U.S. to victory in the 2009 Walker Cup and who is a lock to land a spot on this year’s 10-man American team, will take a three-stroke lead over Patrick Rodgers into Saturday’s final round.
Rodgers, who will be a freshman this year at Stanford, came in with a 5-under 64 to stand at 8-under 199, one stroke better than James White, who was a first-team All-American at Georgia Tech this past season. White shot 63.
Auburn’s Blayne Barber (65) and Florida’s Bank Vongvanij (67) followed at 6-under 201 while four players were another shot back at 202.
Making one of the biggest jumps of the day was Nate McCoy, a rising senior at Iowa State. Starting the round at 2-over and “just trying to make the (54-hole) cut,” McCoy shot 6-under 63 and went from a tie for 38th to solo 10th at 4-under 203.
Rains over the past two days softened and slowed the greens and turned what normally is a bear of a golf course into a tame household pet.
Twenty-one players shot sub-par scores in Round 3, something that has been unheard of here in the past.
Uihlein’s 62 was one off the tournament record, which Luke Guthrie posted in the first round.
Uihlein started the day at 4 under, two strokes behind Guthrie, but by the time he made the turn he was 7 under and had taken the lead – which he never relinquished.
Guthrie, who will be a senior at Illinois in the fall, quickly fell out of contention when he double bogeyed Nos. 2 and 3 and bogeyed No. 5 en route to a 3-over 72 that left him at 3-under 204.
Kyle Scott was one stroke behind Guthrie at the start, but shot 2-over 71 after making four bogeys and one birdie on the back nine. He now stands at 204.
After starting with four consecutive pars, Uihlein got things going. He made birdies at Nos. 5 and 7 and added another with a chip-in at the eighth. He birdied the 13th and 15th and distanced himself from the field when he hit a pair of 3-wood shots to 3 feet and rolled in his eagle putt at the 17th, the only par 5 on the course. He missed tying the tournament record when his 15-foot birdie try at the finishing hole just missed to the right.
“I stayed patient all day and let whatever was going to happen, happen,” said Uihlein, winner of this year’s Ben Hogan Award as the top collegiate/amateur golfer in the country. “After yesterday’s round, I went over to the (nearby) Bay Club and found something on the range. It was just a little thing with my swing, but it was enough to get me back on track.”
Rodgers and Uihlein will be paired in the final twosome for Saturday’s final round and they certainly won’t be strangers to each other.
When he was deciding which college he would attend, Rodgers visited Oklahoma State and Uihlein was one of his hosts. Then, the two were paired together this week in the first two rounds.
“I got to know Peter when I visited Oklahoma State,” Rodgers said. “He’s a great guy and he’s a fantastic player. He’ll be tough to beat tomorrow, that’s for sure.”
Rodgers got his round going with birdies at the third and fifth holes. He made a bogey at No. 6, but came back with a birdie at the tough ninth hole and then added three more on the back side at 11, 14 and 17.
“After I three-putted for bogey at No. 6, I just told myself to stay patient and make some birdies from there,” Rodgers said. “I was hitting the ball well and really controlling my spin and distance. And every time I got around the hole I was making the putts.”
White’s 63 consisted of five birdies (Nos. 6, 7, 10, 11 and 15), and an eagle at 17 to offset a lone bogey at the 16th.
With overcast skies throughout the third round, the course is not expected to dry out very much and scores should again be on the low side in the final round. Thus, the tournament record of 11-under 265 set by Dan Woltman in 2009 could very well be in serious jeopardy.
“It should be one heck of a shoot-out come tomorrow,” said tournament director Denny Glass after the third round. “And the way these guys are playing and the scores they are shooting, I’d say anything can happen.”