LA QUINTA, Calif. – Not only is this the largest Championship flight in recent years at Golf Channel Am Tour National Championship, it's delivered some of the tournament's most spectacular scores.
Jordan Massey, who we profiled earlier this week, carded a 36-hole tournament record (68-69=137). Then, in round three on the Stadium Course at PGA West, two-time National Champion Paul Erdman, from Erie, Colo., shot a tournament record single round score of 66.
After an opening round 79, which the Colorado resident chalked up to a failure to adjust to yardages at sea level, Erdman found his distances in Round 2 and arrived at Round 3, seemingly out of contention and totally relaxed.
"I couldn't have dreamed there would be a 12-shot swing," said Erdman. "I kept making putts, making birdies. I had no idea I was 8-under going into 17."
Then, "Alcatraz", the famous island green on the Stadium, bit him. He found the water right and made a double bogey.
With the runaway leader Massey stumbling to a 78, Erdman, who won the Championship flight in 2011 at PGA West and 2014 in Scottsdale, is three shots back. That's the same deficit he had heading into the final round in '11.
Kody Conover rallies, guarantees victory
You may remember Am Tour member Kody Conover, who Mike Bailey profiled in the 2014 National Championship in Scottsdale and was also featured in this Morning Drive feature by Rich Lerner:
Well, Kody is back at Nationals in 2015, having won two major tournaments (he won five tournaments in a row in 2014). Playing in the Sarazen flight (handicaps 12-15.9), he had high hopes for Nationals, but an opening round 103 set him considerably off the pace in his flight. His caddie and father Clifford said the round was simply a matter of ball position and perhaps being a little bit excited for the tournament.
But Kody has stormed back in the last two rounds. He shot a 94 in Round 2 and then went even lower with an 83 on the Palmer Course today.
He may be in 48th place and 37 shots off the lead heading into the final round, but as one of Am Tour's most prolific golfers, he's still plenty confident in his chances.
"That 103 I had was a bad round for me," said Conover. "But I'm going to come back and shoot a 61 to win."
Fireworks at the 15th
There was plenty of hootin' and hollerin' at the par-3 14th hole of the Palmer Private course this afternoon in the Sarazen flight grouping of Mel Imad, David Holcomb and Jay Harjo.
Imad, from Virginia Beach, Va., aced the dramatic par-3 that plays along the side of the mountain. It was his first ever hole-in-one.
It was a group effort on the tee. Holcomb, playing first, hooked his tee shot into the bunker. Watching the shot, Imad then made the decision to play a little further right of the pin.
"I hit an easy 9-iron and aimed to the right," he said. "Hoping it will roll to the left. I hit it perfect, two feet right of the hole, it rolled left and disappeared."
As they arrived onto the green, a crowd had gathered and photos were taken. Even a bighorn sheep was perched above the green in the rocks.
Then Holcomb went down into the bunker and holed his shot for birdie, which sent all onlookers into a frenzy.
Well, maybe not the bighorn. They've been all over the Palmer and Nicklaus courses at PGA West recently, including this flock that wandered onto the first green of the Nicklaus course this afternoon: