WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W.Va. — No leader or co-leader after any of the first three rounds has won in the previous eight-year history of the PGA Tour event at Old White TPC Course.
Twenty-year-old Joaquin Niemann hopes to change that Sunday. The Chili native appears to have a good chance of doing so after shooting a 2-under par 68 Saturday that leaves him with a two-shot lead entering the final round of A Military Tribute at The Greenbrier.
“I think it was a really good round,” Niemann said. “The pin locations were a lot tougher. They were all like on the back of the green on top of a hill, so it was tough to get it close.”
Old White also played tougher as a result of increased wind. One day after Kevin Chappell recorded a 59 for the 11th sub-60 round in PGA Tour history and second at the course, the low round of the day was 65 — belonging to Richy Werenski, Nate Lashley and Joseph Bramlett.
Additionally, 21 players shot over par and 32 of 67 failed to shoot under par.
Niemann, one of the game’s top up-and-coming players who was the world’s top-ranked amateur for nearly a full year prior to turning pro in April 2018, is making his third appearance at The Greenbrier. In the previous two years, Niemann has shot a 64 in both final rounds.
“I’d love to shoot 6-under tomorrow, but I don’t know,” Niemann said. “I really enjoy playing golf, so one more round to go. I’m in the final group, so why not enjoy?”
Niemann was steady throughout most of Saturday’s round, recording birdies on the 6th, 10th and 17th holes. His first and only bogey of the tournament came at No. 11 when Niemann failed to overcome a drive left into the rough.
Following a 49-minute rain delay, Niemann began play on No. 14 and had to get up and down from a bunker to save par, which he did by making an 8-foot putt.
Niemann also hit one of his better shots of the day on his third at the par-5 17th, getting to within 7 feet from 158 yards. He capitalized with the birdie, giving him the two-shot edge over Werenski, Lashley and Robby Shelton.
“Two years ago I was playing this event as an amateur and I never thought I’d be the leader two years later,” Niemann said.
Werenski made six birdies against one bogey at No. 13 for his second straight 65.
“I’ve played the last couple years and it’s kind of the same deal where it’s a little softer Thursday, Friday and plays a little tougher on the weekend,” Werenski said. “They tucked some pins and it’s a little firmer.”
Lashley shot a 29 on the front nine and even par on the back despite making three bogeys. Lashley chipped in from the rough for an eagle at No. 17, though he had a three-putt at No. 18 following the delay to finish his round.
“I just played a little better on the front nine,” Lashley said. “The greens were firming up out there a little today and you had to hit some quality shots on the back nine to get it close to the pins.”
Shelton had a strong finish to his round to stay well within contention. The tournament’s first-round leader and PGA Tour rookie played his final eight holes at 2-under par to sign for a 70.
“They didn’t want many low numbers today, and it definitely showed,” Shelton said. “The scores were pretty high. Pretty happy to shoot even par.”
Adam Long and Scottie Sheffler are tied for fifth at 12-under. Long shot a 70, while Scheffler, playing with Niemann, carded a 71.
Scheffler did play his last seven holes at 3-under par to fight back into contention, but a double bogey at No. 6 could prove costly.
Bramlett and Harris English are each at 11-under, while Sungjae Im, Tom Hoge and Patrick Rodgers form a trio at 10-under.