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January 19 2013

6:28 PM

Stallings opens commanding lead

By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM

LA QUINTA, Calif. -- Scott Stallings threatened to run away with the Humana Challenge in partnership with the Clinton Foundation on Saturday.

Stallings, who has yet to drop a shot to par in 54 holes this week, made two eagles and five birdies on the way to a 63 on the Nicklaus Course that enabled him to open up a five-shot lead. Stallings will start the final 18 holes on the Palmer Course at 22 under as he seeks his third PGA TOUR win in as many years.

"I've been aggressive," Stallings said. "I've been smart when I got out of position. Just because I played really good, doesn't mean that I've hit it perfect on every single hole. I scrambled a little bit, but when I got out of position off the tee, I played smart. I hit it in the middle of the green and just kind of accepted par and moved on and was really aggressive when I had the opportunity.

"The same thing goes tomorrow. Obviously, a lot can happen coming down the back nine, especially with all the birdie holes coming in, but it is what it is, and go out there and try to be aggressive early and go from there."

His nearest competitors include Roberto Castro, who held a share of the first- and second-round leads; former British Open champion Stewart Cink, Charles Howell III, John Rollins and Charley Hoffman. Rollins had the lowest round of the group at 17 under with a 64 at the Nicklaus Course.

Obviously, the five-stroke advantage will be difficult to overcome on PGA West's Palmer Private Course. Not that it can't be done, though.

"It's probably harder on the PGA, on this in this format, just because you just don't have quite the opportunity for the leader to come back to you," Cink said. "You're going to have to take over the lead.  And a poor round tomorrow, assuming the weather is like this, is still going to be like around 1  or 2 under par. And that's a poor round.
 
"So you're going to have to go out there and really be aggressive and play well and really make some putts and stay aggressive."

Brian Stuard, who had visions of a 59 when he moved to 11 under through 16 holes at the Nicklaus Course, heads a group of seven players at 16 hunder. Stuard, who bogeyed the 18th and shot 62, is among nine players tied at 16 under.

"I kind of thought (about 59) after I hit my tee shot on 17," admitted Stuard, who was outside the cut line at the start of the day. "I had a chance there and just kind of left it on the top edge, but, no, after that, not really." 

Also at 16 under is Sang-moon Bae, who shot 8 under at the Nicklaus; Kevin Streelman, Kevin Stadler, Brian Gay, Ryan Palmer, Billy Horschel and Lee Williams.

Phil Mickelson played his way to Sunday with a round of 66 on the Palmer Course that included birdies on the 16th and 17th holes and a water-logged par at the 18th. He finished at 11 under, which is two shots clear of the cut, which came at 10 under.

Among the players who won't play Sunday are former major champions Trevor Immelman, Davis Love III, Webb Simpson and Mike Weir. A total of 81 players made the cut.

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