DETROIT – Troy Merritt (67, 14 below par) has long been out of the hunt and, as an Iowa native, is trying to keep the trophy in the Midwest.
Joaquin Niemann (68, 14) finished second in the first two tournaments of 2021 – once in the playoffs – and should have won one for Santiago, Chile.
Thanks to the first-ever PGA TOUR, sniper Merritt, who jumped into a hole on 219-yard 11th course in one jump, and Niemann drove without a scarecrow through 54 holes, the two were on equal terms. lead with one round remaining on the Rocket Mortgage Classic. But it could be crazy Sunday at the bird-friendly Detroit golf club with 14 players within four peaks.
“Yes, most importantly, when you come forward, don’t go back to the guys behind you,” said 35-year-old Merritt, who has won 21 tournaments in Boise State and will be aiming for his third TOUR win. “Make them come and get you.
“I know we are connected now,” he added, “so we’ll think about making a few birds, but not giving them away, making them work to come and pick us up, and hopefully eventually , that will be good enough. ”
Niemann has a perfect 13 out of 13 scrambling and has made 14 regular saves from four feet or more this week.
The last player to lose his scarecrow and win the TOUR was J.T. Poston at the 2019 Wyndham Championship, and he was the first to do so since Lee Trevino in 1974. Niemann risked retaliation when he got out of position. on hole 14 par-5, but did what he called a “huge save” from the green bunker to continue his streak.
Number 25 of the FedEx Cup and number 30 in the world, Niemann, who has made 21 cuts in 22 starts this year, has won the TOUR once at the tender age of 22. in January at the Sentry Tournament of Champions (knockout loss) and the Sony Open in Hawaii (T2), things were different.
He claims to have dealt with it quickly.
“Just be patient,” he said. “I think everyone will have their own moment, but my moment came quite early. And then I tried to find my moment, I went to the playoffs in Hawaii, finishing second a week later.
“But I took it pretty lightly,” he continued. “I just wanted to keep going. I knew that when everything went well, I would win again, so I just didn’t want to put myself under this stress. “
Sunday is expected to bring higher temperatures, while conditions have been autumnal on the last two days. The track is still soft due to heavy rain and has historically low scores.
Last year, Bryson DeShambeau shot 65 points in the final round to win. Nate Lashley shot 25 fewer to win in 2019. Assuming that someone who fired five shots still has a chance, it would attract a huge group at the age of 9, including Rocket Mortgage Ambassador Ricky Fowler.
“Obviously, the leaders, they are all pretty close to each other, next to each other,” Niemann said, “so I know that tomorrow I need to go lower to give myself a chance to win.”
Added Hank Lebioda (66, one back), the left-hander whose T5 in the Travelers Championship last week was his only Top 10 finish in 19 previous starts this season: “There are quite a few birds (yielding) on this field as the game progresses. … Tomorrow will probably be the same, so I will improve. ”
The 35-year-old Merritt won the Quicken Loans National 2015 and the Barbasol Championship in 2018, but finished 101st in the FedExCup this week. He said that trying to deliver was a problem, but leads in the number of hits: number of hits (+6.659) and ranks second in driving accuracy (36/42) in three rounds.
“The last couple of Sundays for sure – the US Open and Memorial, and last week’s Travelers – weren’t that big,” he said, “so we need to get back on track, so hopefully this week.” …