SAN DIEGO – Already a two-time winner at Torrey Pines, having a share of the lead is exactly where Brandt Snedeker wanted to be Saturday.
It’s just not all that familiar to him.
Snedeker won last year in the Farmers Insurance Open by rallying from six shots behind in the final round that was stretched over two days because of high wind. His other victory at Torrey was in 2012, when he was seven shots behind and won in a playoff over Kyle Stanley, who made triple bogey on the last hole.
“I definitely like my odds better than the last two times I won at this place,” Snedeker said.
Even with a tough day on the South Course’s poa greens, Snedeker hung on for a 2-under 70 and was tied for the lead with Patrick Rodgers, who had a clean scorecard to match the picture-perfect day along the California coastline. Rodgers shot a 67 as he goes for his first PGA Tour victory.
“Exactly where I want to be, in the last group here,” Snedeker said. “This is obviously a tough golf course. There’s a lot of guys within a couple shots of the lead, so it doesn’t really mean a whole lot. But this place, for whatever reason, seems to bring out my best and I’m excited about the challenge.”
Snedeker and Rodgers were at 9-under 207, and Snedeker has been around long to know that a share of the 54-hole lead means nothing.
Fifteen players were within three shots of the lead.
The last time Snedeker had a share of the 54-hole lead at Torrey Pines was in 2007, his rookie year.
“Tiger won,” he said with a laugh as he walked out the door.
Tiger Woods was long gone after missing the cut, along with Dustin Johnson, Jason Day and Rickie Fowler. Phil Mickelson is still very much in the picture after a 68 left him four shots behind in his bid to win at Torrey Pines for the fourth time, but first since 2001.
Rodgers is the latest player from the high school class of 2011 with a chance to shine, an athletic and powerful player who has been patiently waiting his turn. He picked up a little extra motivation from watching one of his best friends, former roommate Justin Thomas, sweep the Hawaii swing.
Before Thomas, it was Jordan Spieth who picking up big trophies at an alarming rate.
“I can’t sit here and say it hasn’t been hard at times,” Rodgers said. “Obviously, these are my best friends so I’m happy every time they have success. But on a personal level, I mean, those are the guys that I’ve always competed with and so it definitely tests my patience to see them have success and it’s incredibly motivating.”
And it’s not just Rodgers.
Also in range of a victory Sunday are two others from that high school graduating class – C.T. Pan of Taiwan, who played at Washington, birdied three of his last five holes for a 69 and was one shot behind; and Ollie Schniederjans struggled on the back nine but still managed a 71 to finish two shots back.
Also in the mix was Pat Perez, who grew up at Torrey Pines and whose father, Mike, is the starter on the first tee. Perez shot a 67 and goes into the final round just two shots behind.
Justin Rose, who started the third round with a one-shot lead, fell behind on the second hole and never caught up. He shot 73 and was in the large group at 7-under 209.
But it starts with Snedeker, the Tennessee native who loves the poa annua greens on the West Coast. A two-time winner at Torrey, he also has won at Pebble Beach. Snedeker has learned to accept the bad bounces, which is one reason he believes he does well.
His patience was tested on Saturday. Snedeker hit the ball so well that he only came close to bogey twice – his lone dropped shot was on No. 12 – and he missed seven birdies putts from the 15-foot range and closer.
“It was tested a lot,” Snedeker said. “That’s part of it. If you’re going to love poa, you have to love days like this, too, where you hit a lot of great putts and they just don’t want to go in for whatever reason. … I didn’t let it affect my game plan, didn’t let it affect the way I thought out there or did anything like that. This golf course does a great job of trying to make you do that, so proud of the way I hung in there.”
Rodgers was helped by a new putter from Odyssey that he put in the bag two weeks ago, in part because he liked the look, and in part because it’s called “Indianapolis.” That’s where Rodgers grew up, and the putter was named because of its technology came from Indy race cars.
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