MIDLOTHIAN, Va. (July 16, 2011) –– Professionally, Virginia Beach ophthalmologist Roger Newsom uses a steady hand and delicate touch in performing his job as an eye surgeon.
But the 47-year-old South Hampton Roads amateur seemingly has a steelworker’s-clenched grasp of the lead entering Sunday’s final round of the SunTrust State of Virginia at Independence Golf Club. firing a third round 67 to own a six-stroke advantage For a third consecutive round, Newsom shot or equaled the low round of the day and is at 17-under 199 for the championship after carding 65-67 prior to the weekend.
Three-time champion Faber Jamerson, 34, the PGA general manager at Falling River Country Club in Appomattox logged a second nine 31, was one of four players to shoot 67, and is Newsom’s closest pursuer at 11-under 205.
Amateur Mikey Moyers, 20, of Stanardsville, a rising junior at Virginia Tech, had 68 on day three and is 10 strokes back (7-under 209). Four-time event runner-up Chip Sullivan, 46, of Troutville (third round 70), the PGA general manager at Hanging Rock Golf Club in Salem, stands at 6-under 210. Seven other competitors are at 4-under 212, including defending champion Evan Beck, a 20-year-old amateur from Virginia Beach, who is a rising junior at Wake Forest University.
Newsom’s 17 under aggregate equals a to-par 54-hole championship record, previously established by former champions Jamerson (2009) and Robert Wrenn (1991). Wrenn’s championship record of 20 under par, equaled last year by Beck, is well within hailing distance for Newsom entering the final round.
For Newsom, the 2008 champion, Saturday was about trust and confidence, traits he showed throughout the round. Already the owner of a six-stroke lead entering the third round, he put on a ball-striking clinic, playing bogey-free with five birdies. Newsom promised a steady, one-shot-at-a-time approach and delivered on Saturday; he hit all 14 fairways and 17 of 18 greens in regulation.
It’s no wonder that Jamerson admiringly started calling his fellow-competitor ‘radar’ after Newsom’s tee shot came to rest in the fairway at the 15th hole.
“Well, if I’m operating on eyes, you want me to be precise don’t you?” Newsom said as they both shared a laugh.
Newsom birdied both par 5s on the outward half, Nos. 4 and 8, and sandwiched in another at the 152-yard par-3 seventh, stuffing his 8-iron tee shot to two inches for a tap-in birdie. After turning in three under, he added another from 6 feet above the hole at the par-4 12th hole. Newsom had a host of other scoring chances throughout the round and capped the day by rolling in an 18-footer at the par-4 finishing hole, raising his arms in the air as if to indicate the day’s mission was accomplished.
Outwardly, Newsom made the game look easy at times on Saturday, but inwardly referred to the round as though he was “in the middle of a battle.”
“Today, it’s like feeling you have the tiger by the tail,” said Newsom, a VSGA member at Portsmouth’s Elizabeth Manor Golf and Country Club. “You hope you don’t make mistakes and I played as good a golf as I can play today.
“The putt on 18 was the cherry on the ice cream that I didn’t expect. I was very fortunate.”
Jamerson turned in even par, but began to get the feel of the subtly-breaking, slick putting surfaces, holing five birdie putts inside 10 feet on the inward half. The second nine surge kept him remain six strokes back of Newsom, the same way he started the third round.
“I gave myself a lot more opportunities and was able to put myself in play off the tee, which has been my struggle all week,” Jamerson said. “That allowed me to be more aggressive into some of these [flagsticks].”
Jamerson knows what it feels like to hold a big lead entering the final round of the event, but this year’s he’s in catch-up mode. He was six strokes clear of his next-nearest fellow-competitor going into the last day both in 1999 as an amateur and in 2006 as a professional before rolling to eight and six-shot wins each of those years. In his last win in 2009 at Independence, Jamerson was five ahead of his closest pursuer entering the final day before cruising to a five-stroke triumph.
“It’s kind of funny to be back in the same situation that I’ve put so many people in before,”Jamerson said. “It’s not over. Roger is playing really, really well. That was as solid a round of golf as I’ve watched in a while from tee to green and he putted very well.”
Jamerson’s second-nine 31, which ended by matching Newsom’s birdie at No. 18, admittedly gives him some glimmer of hope entering the final day, especially if he can get off to a fast start. He’ll be in the final pairing off No. 1 with Newsom and Moyers on Sunday.
“Two more 31s – we’ll see what happens,” Jamerson said. “Play a good nine tomorrow morning and put a little pressure on [Newsom] to start with – which I wasn’t able to do at all today until the back nine – and you never can tell what will happen.
“You have to go make birdies. You have to give yourself a lot of opportunities and hopefully make a few. It’s hard to come back from six shots back. Roger is playing well again and he’s going to have to help us out a little bit, I think.”
Newsom is a bit of an anomaly in today’s golf world. Content to be a lifelong amateur, he performs around 15 eye surgeries a week while playing an active amateur golf schedule, depending on the time of year. Reasonably long off the tee, Newsom relies on precision rather than adopting the bomb-and-gouge approach that has become popular in recent times. The strategy has been the perfect fit for this week’s setup at Independence, which features menacingly deep rough and quick greens.
Newsom has made 18 birdies and only a single bogey the first three days in leading wire-to-wire to date; he won’t change his game plan on Sunday.
“I’m going to keep doing what I’m doing. I mean, do you want your eye doctor to be a risky guy?” Newsom said with a laugh.
“All I can do is control myself. I have to control my shots. It doesn’t matter what everybody does. I have to get it done. I have to hit good shots and make a few putts. I don’t think I have to go super low [Sunday], but I have to play good golf. These are good guys out here. They’re good golfers, good guys and you have to produce. You can’t sit back and think that it is just going to happen for you.”
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