By Jeff Shain, PGATOUR.COM Contributor
VALDOSTA, Ga. – It was the type of round that prompts others to ask what hole you skipped.
Will Wilcox could have absorbed an extra, too. Tack another 4 onto Saturday’s scorecard at the South Georgia Classic, and he still would have laid claim to the best round of the day. A 5 would have forced him to share honors.
“That’s ridiculous,” Wilcox said after signing for his 9-under-par 63.
It was a common sentiment as his peers tried to digest what the 26-year-old pro managed to pull off across ultralong Kinderlou Forest Golf Club.
Nick Flanagan posted a screenshot of Saturday’s leaderboard on his Twitter account, with the comment: “I assume Wilcox will be DQ'd for playing the wrong golf course, right?”
Said Edward Loar, the tour’s earnings leader: “That ain’t moving – that’s lapping the field.”
Not only did Wilcox break the course record, he ran away to a seven-shot advantage over nearest pursuers Ryan Spears, D.J. Brigman and Michael Putnam. Had he managed to save par at No.18, he would have tied the Web.com Tour record for largest 54-hole lead.
“I wish I would have birdied the last one, but we’ll see what happens,” said Wilcox, whose drive at No.18 found the lip of a fairway bunker, leaving him unable to reach the green in two.
The 63 also fell two strokes shy of this season’s lowest round, when Kevin Kisner’s 61 at the Chile Classic put him on the path to victory.
Sometimes, though, it isn’t the number itself that’s so remarkable. It’s how that number stacks up against everyone else’s numbers.
Saturday’s next-best scores came from a pair of 68s by Spears and Will MacKenzie – a five-shot difference that ranks up with the biggest in tour history.
Though not part of the tour’s official records, it’s believed the largest margin following a day’s best score is held by Notah Begay III, whose 59 in the second round of the 1998 Dominion Open was six shots better than anyone else that day.
A quick review of other 59s and 60s turns up a few other five-shot margins. That would arguably put Wilcox’s round up with the best in Web.com Tour history.
“He played great, man. My hat's off to him,” said Andrew Loupe, who had a front-row view as Wilcox’s playing partner. “He drove it well, he ironed it well, he putted well. He didn’t have to chip very much, I’ll tell you that.”
It’s also worth noting that before Saturday, the best round of the week belonged to Spears’ opening 66.
“Everything just kind of came together – and I holed out from 193 [yards],” said Wilcox, whose eagle at Kinderlou Forest’s par-4 12th hole took him to 7-under for the day.
The magic began long before that, though. Wilcox started his day with a 35-foot birdie at the first hole, made a long par save at No.3 and made the turn in 4-under 32. “I figured I could just maybe coast in at 6- or 7-[under],” he said.
Instead, that’s when things started going a little crazy.
After converting his fifth birdie at the par-5 11th, Wilcox hit the fairway at No.12 and pulled a 7-iron to get to a back-left pin.
“I knew all I had to do was carry it 180 [yards],” he said. “I saw a bunker on the next hole – I said if I can just hit it at that and turn it to the center of the green with hook spin, it’ll roll back there. And that’s exactly what happened.”
All the way into the cup.
“That was the longest shot I’ve ever holed out,” said Wilcox, in his third Web.com Tour season. “It’s just one of those things – one in what, thousands? It was more than I could have expected.”
Nor did I end there, becoming part of a birdie-eagle-birdie-birdie stretch that put Wilcox firmly in command.
“That was the fastest going from 4 [under] to 9 that I’ve seen in my entire life,” marveled Loupe’s caddie, Noah Zelnick.
Said Wilcox: “We didn’t even know what to say,” Wilcox said. “Then I made a birdie on the next hole. Then when I birdied that par-3 over the ravine [at No.14], I was like, ‘What’s going on?’ ”
Now it’s just a matter of closing things out. Wilcox has led a Web.com Tour event just once before – part of an eight-man logjam after the opening round of last year’s Chiquita Classic. He didn’t break 70 the rest of that week.
This time, he’ll have to follow it up under Sunday pressure.
“No, there will be plenty of nerves,” said Wilcox, whose best Web.com Tour finish is a pair of thirds in 2011.
“These are really good players, this is a really good golf course. It’s not like I’m going to just waltz around. I’ve got to keep my focus in front of me and play my best. … Nothing’s safe out here, so we’ll just see what happens.”
Whatever transpires, nothing can take away Saturday’s truly remarkable round.