Photo by Street Lecka/Getty Images
CHARLOTTE, N.C. – After rounds of 66-68-67, Jonathan Byrd needs just a 2-under-par round of 70 on Sunday to break the Wells Fargo Championship tournament scoring record. That’s the good news.
The bad news is, he could shoot even lower than that and not pick up the trophy.
On a day when much of the sports world’s focus was on the Kentucky Derby, low scoring was the order of the day – at least among the upper half of the field – as the ninth Wells Fargo reached its own three-quarter pole.
Byrd, a Clemson product who won the season-opening Hyundai Tournament of Champions this year, strung together seven birdies in a nine-hole stretch, starting at the par-5 seventh, to shot 5-under-par 67 and leapfrog to the top of a crowded leaderboard. Byrd’s 15-under 203 total is within a single-shot, relative to par, of the tournament record.
Anthony Kim shot 16-under 272 in winning this event in 2008, one shot better than Rory McIlroy’s winning score last year.
Byrd offset bookend bogeys on the front nine with birdies at seven and eight. Then he turned it on on the back, with five birdies in the first six holes – the only exception being the difficult 12th, a hole that second-round leader Pat Perez bogeyed on the way to a 70 that left him alone in second, one back of Byrd.
On a day that saw J.B. Holmes shoot 65, thanks in part to an albatross at the par-5 15th, and Rory Sabbatini hole a 170-yard approach from a fairway bunker for eagle at the par-4 16th on his way to a 66, Byrd was one of five players in the top 16 to card a 67 on a course that is playing just short of 7,500 yards and has already been selected to host the 2017 PGA Championship.
The scoring at the top of the board reflected the perfect scoring conditions that followed a 90-minute delay for early morning fog.
A pair of ACC products with major titles to their credit – former U.S. Open champion Lucas Glover of Clemson and past Open Championship winner Stewart Cink of Georgia Tech – share third with a round to go. Cink posted a 68 on Saturday; Glover a 69.
Billl Haas, who also played collegiately in the ACC, at Wake Forest, started the third round in second place, two back of Perez. But he could do no better than 71 and joined Andres Romero and Kevin Na, both of whom shot 67, in a three-way tie for fifth at minus-11.
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