MIAMI -- Mother Nature threw another curveball at the Miccosukee Championship field on Saturday, but it didn’t seem to bother rookie Shawn Stefani one bit.
With winds blowing consistently between 20-30 mph and some gusts reaching 35 mph, Stefani tied the tournament course record with a 9-under-par 62. His 54-hole total of 12-under-par 201 gives him a six-stroke advantage over Alistair Presnell and Christopher DeForest heading into Sunday’s final round.
Stefani’s 62 was his career-best on the Web.com Tour (his previous low was a 63 in the final round at last month’s Albertsons Boise Open) and matched the tournament course record set by Jason Dufner in the second round in 2003 and later duplicated by D.A. Points in the third round in 2008. Stefani’s six-stroke lead is the largest 54-hole lead in tournament annals. The previous best was three strokes by Craig Bowden in 2003 and Jason Kokrak in 2011.
Stefani almost made it look too easy on Saturday. He got off to a quick start with four birdies and an eagle after just six holes and quickly grabbed a lead he would build on the rest of the day.
“I thought it was a bit humorous today,” Stefani said with a grin after his round. “It was just one of those days where everything went right. After No. 6, I just started laughing. To be 5 under par after six in these conditions was pretty amazing. It just seemed like every putt wanted to go in.”
While wind was playing havoc with most of the other 63 players in the field, Stefani posted the day’s lone bogey-free round.
“My goal when the day began was to just improve on some things to get ready for the Web.com Tour Championship in a couple of weeks. I had no set score in my head when I started the day and I just wanted to stay patient and work on some things,” Stefani added. “I never thought about a 62. I would have been happy with a 72 in these conditions.”
Currently 16th on the Web.com Tour money list with $195,311, Stefani will be bidding for his second win this year. He came from four strokes back in August, when he won the Midwest Classic near Kansas City. Should he prevail on Sunday, he would become the fourth multiple winner on the Web.com Tour this year, joining Casey Wittenberg, Luke Guthrie and Ben Kohles.
“This has got to be the best round I’ve ever played. I shot a 60 at the Texas State Open last year, but it wasn’t the Web.com Tour,” he added. “Today is over now and I’ve got to think about what I have to do tomorrow.”
Christopher DeForest and Steve LeBrun, who shared the 36-hole lead at 7 under par, posted rounds of 72 and 73, respectively, and trail by six and seven strokes.
With a 50 percent chance of rain on Sunday, Tour officials adjusted the starting times. Players will go off the first and 10th tees between 7:30-9:30 a.m. Once again, winds are expected to be a factor with speeds predicted to be between 15-25 mph with some higher gusts.
--In the previous nine events, the third-round leader/co-leader has gone on to win this tournament a total of six times, including each of the last five years.
--Shawn Stefani hit 16 of 18 greens in regulation to lead all players in that category.
--Stefani has certainly enjoyed playing the front nine. He is 10 under par on the front nine and has yet to make a bogey. His front-nine total of 6-under-par 29 matched the best front-nine score in tournament history set by Bryce Molder in 2004 (7 under) and matched by Keegan Bradley (6 under) six years later.
--Stefani’s six-stroke lead matches the largest 54-hole lead on Tour this year. Paul Haley III also led by six at the Chile Classic.
--Andrew Svoboda and Kevin Tway each posted 4-under-par 64s, the second-best rounds of the day. Tway, who is playing on a sponsor’s exemption, is currently tied for fifth. The son of longtime PGA Tour and current Champions Tour player Bob Tway, he missed the cut in his two other events he had played on the Web.com Tour this year.