BOISE, Idaho -- Michael Putnam continues to break records and keep his challengers at arm’s length despite some “military golf” in Saturday’s third round of the Albertsons Boise Open. Putnam took the scenic route around Hillcrest Country Club, with wayward tee shots to the left and to the right, but somehow managed to piece together a 3-under 68 that put him at 18 under par and two shots in front of the field heading into Sunday’s finale.
“I was all over the place today,” said the Seattle-area native. “I was everywhere. I hit some bad shots. Compared to the first two days, I was in a lot of different spots and had a lot less birdie opportunities because of it. I was saving par a lot with long two-putts or up-and-downs.”
Putnam, the first-day co-leader and outright leader after the second day, established a tournament record for 54 holes with his 195 total but isn’t assured of anything yet. New pro Luke Guthrie matched the week’s best score with a 9-under 62 and is only two back along with four others – Steve Wheatcroft (63), Scott Gardiner (64), Tyrone van Aswegen (67) and leading money winner Casey Wittenberg (64), who has already collected two Web.com Tour titles this year.
Seattle native Jeff Gove (67) is three back and alone in seventh place.
“You know on this course you’re going to have to attack. You can’t shoot even-par and win tomorrow,” said Putnam, who held the 54-hole lead at the Utah Championship two months ago but wound up tied for second. “Somebody’s going to shoot 6 or 7 under, which means I’ve got to shoot 4 or 5 under. I’ve got to attack, too.”
Putnam was up by two to start the day and looked like he was ready to run away from the field when he attacked early and eagled the par-5 second hole with a 30-foot putt to increase his lead.
Things changed quickly for the former Pepperdine All-American when he hooked his tee shot 30 yards left of his target on the very next hole, another reachable par 5.
“I was out of bounds by a floss, literally,” he quipped afterward. “They got out some dental floss and strung it between two markers. It couldn’t have been more than a quarter of an inch out. It was a bad shot but it was also a bad break. I was upset, but you can’t argue with it. What can you do?”
After putting a double-bogey 7 on his scorecard, Putnam rebounded with birdies at Nos. 6 and 9 to regain the lead over a host of challengers who were blitzing the par-71 layout with a scoring average of 69.157.
“I knew it was going to be tough,” said Putnam. “They tucked some pins today. It was a tough day. I just grinded it out.”
Putnam’s miscues left the door for others to get close.
Guthrie, who is finishing 13 credits this semester to complete his degree at the University of Illinois, was nearly perfect while moving into position, but his day could have been better. He three-putted the par-5 16th for par and missed a birdie try from seven feet at the par-3 17th.
“You just have days where you feel good, you feel good over the putts,” he said. “You get up and see the line and you see the shots and today was one of them.”
Guthrie was in the house by the time Putnam pulled a tee shot under some trees on No. 11 and made bogey to drop back into a tie at minus-16. He then countered with another birdie at No. 14 to restore some breathing room.
When Putnam reached the par-5 16th hole, which measures 535 yards but somehow plays much shorter, he had exchanged his pull-hook for a big push to the right. His tee shot cleared the trees that guard the fairway and settled into a bunker in a designated chipping area, some 45 yards off-center.
This time the rules worked in his favor and he was given relief out of the sand. Putnam grabbed an 8-iron.
“I had 185 yards and I didn’t think I could get it there, but it was really the only club I could have hit to get it up and over the trees and still be able to hook it,” he said. “It was as good an 8-iron as I could hit.”
Putnam wound up on the green and two-putting for birdie, putting him at 18-under and two up, the margin he will take into the final round.
--Michael Putnam and Steve Wheatcroft are good friends and will be paired together on Sunday. They also are members of the same fantasy football league and their respective teams – Putnam’s “Revenge” and Wheatcroft’s “Fourth and Short” – are paired in head-to-head competition this weekend.
--Michael Putnam’s 195 total set a tournament record for the lowest 54-hole score. The previous mark of 196 (17 under) was set by Rick Cramer in 1996 and later matched by Mario Tiziani (2006), Jim McGovern (2007), D.A. Points (2007) and Daniel Summerhays (2010). None of those prior record holders went on to win the tournament.
--Luke Guthrie has four top-10 finishes in his first five starts on the Web.com Tour. Guthrie has finished second, tied for third, tied for sixth and tied for 10th thus far and entered the week No. 19 on the money list. Guthrie missed his first, and only, cut two weeks ago at the Mylan Classic in suburban Pittsburgh.
--This is the second time Guthrie has posted a 9-under 62 in only 21 Web.com Tour rounds. He also carded a 62 in the opening round of the Cox Classic, where he wound up tied for third.
--Andrew Svoboda had a pair of eagles on par 5s, Nos. 3 and 16.
--The Web.com Tour moves to Texas next week for the WNB Golf Classic. The tournament will be held at Midland Country Club Sept. 17-23. Last year Danny Lee made a par on the first playoff hole to defeat fellow rookie Harris English for his first career title.