By Joe Chemycz, Web.com Tour staff
MIDLAND, Texas – Lefty Edward Loar grew up in Dallas and knows how to play in the wind. Saturday, the Web.com Tour’s leading money winner once again stamped himself as the man to beat in the WNB Golf Classic. Loar posted a 9-under 63 at Midland Country Club to bypass a host of others and take a one-stroke lead after 54 holes.
Loar, winner of the Chitimacha Louisiana Open a couple weeks ago, stands at 15-under 201, one better than Australian Nick Flanagan, who overcame a three-putt double-bogey on the back nine to shot a 66 and move into second spot.
California’s Byron Smith played the front nine in 6-under en route to a 64, which left him at 13-under 203 and two off the pace. Will MacKenzie (65), Clodomiro Carranza (69, Brice Garnett (69) and second-round co-leader Danny Lee 70) share fourth place, three behind Loar.
“Obviously I’ve been having a lot of fun playing golf lately and I’ve just been trying to enjoy it and ride it out,” said Loar, who is in search of his third career win. “It’s a game of peaks and valleys and I seem to be at a pretty good peak.”
When he began the day he was tied for 16th and four shots off the lead held by Lee and Reid Edstrom (72/T12). He birdied three of the first four holes and was off and running.
“When I teed off I saw there were some good scores out there,” said Loar. “That’s this Tour, you better keep the pedal down and keep going. You know you have to be kind of aggressive to shoot good scores.”
The former Oklahoma State standout was nine-under through 14 holes when he made his only mistake of the day at the par-5, 15th.
“I knew where I was and I got a little overzealous with my tee ball trying to really smash it,” he said. “You don’t get a whole lot of chances like that so you might as well go for it.”
Loar had just reeled off four consecutive birdies when he pushed his tee shot left and into the dusty bushes. He was forced to take a penalty stroke for an unplayable lie and the net result was a bogey-6.
A three-foot birdie putt at No. 17 turned out to be the difference between first and second place, though Flanagan wasn’t aware of his standing when he finished his round.
“I didn’t look at anything. I haven’t even looked at a leaderboard yet. I try not to,” he said. “If I can just take what the golf course gives me every day, I usually feel better about it. If I’m out there looking at what other people are doing and start thinking I’ve got to make birdies and things like that, I tend to force it and just go in the opposite direction.”
Flanagan was full speed ahead with his eight birdies and done in by the par-3, 11th.
“I guess I was on a roll and feeling confident and thought I was going to make putt and hit it too hard,” said Flanagan of his 20-foot par attempt. “it hit the edge and I had a four-footer straight down the hill coming back. Other than that I really didn’t have too many scares.”
Third-Round Notes & Quotes:
-- Saturday weather: Cloudy skies. Wind SE 10-20 mph. Overnight low 58. Daytime high 72.
-- Byron Smith made a charge up the leaderboard Saturday with an 8-under 64 that got him to 13-under par. Smith, a 32-year old from Palm Springs, started the day tied for 22nd and five shots back of the leaders.
“I had a nothing-to-lose mindset,” he said. “Luckily I came out and birdied the first two and then birdied four. For me, if I get off to a good start it’s ‘alright, let’s just hold on and keep it going.’ It kind of verifies what you’re thinking and they you get lost in it and hold on for the ride.”
Smith is making his first start in Midland and said it takes a couple of trips around the layout to understand how to attack the golf course.
“It’s the same prevailing wind, but different angles,” he said. “It’s just about getting more comfortable on the golf course as far as lines off the tees, along with clubs on the par-3s and how much the wind affects the golf ball. The first two days it was kind of sloppy and I was scoring well but today I made it easy on myself.”
-- Second-round co-leader Danny Lee fired a 2-under par 70 and is T4, three shots back. Lee has now played a total of 11 rounds at Midland CC and has yet to be over-par on any single round. His scoring average on this course is 67.81.
-- Monday qualifier Todd Baek reeled off five birdies in a row starting at No. 9. He finished with a 67 and is T19 heading into the last day.
-- Morgan Hoffmann opened with a 6-under 30 to reach 9-under par but played the back nine in 1-over 37. He is T25.
-- D.J. Brigman, the 2003 champion, also had five birdies in a row (Nos. 11-15). He shot a 69 and is T25.
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-- Did you know that Midland was originally established in June 1881 as Midway Station on the Texas and Pacific Railway. It earned its name because it was the midway point between Fort Worth and El Paso. The city changed its name to Midland in 1884 and was forever changed by the discovery of oil in the Permian Basin in 1923. The population estimate of 2011 was 113,931 but due to the recent oil boom the current estimate is somewhere between 155,000 and 165,000.