On a sun-kissed day on the Upper Course at the Peekn Peak Resort, scores rose as the afternoon sun and winds made the course play more firm and more difficult as the day moved along, making Thatchers round even more impressive.
I felt I played a really solid round of golf today, he said. The nines might say that I shot 4 under on the front nine and 1 over on the back, but I played rock solid on the back as well. It was just very difficult out here this afternoon.
Thatcher has made eight of his last nine cuts, finishing inside the top 25 in all eight events. This is Thatchers second time playing in the final group on a Sunday this year. His last final pairing resulted in a playoff loss at the Henrico County Open to Nick Flanagan. Thatcher has finished his last two events in the top 10 with a T3 finish at the LaSalle Bank Open and a T9 at the Knoxville Open presented by Food City.
Thatchers last victory on the Nationwide Tour came at the 2002 Bank of America Monterey Penninsula Classic. The Auburn University graduate played on the Nationwide Tour in 2002-2003 and in 2006. He was a member of the PGA TOUR in 2004 and 2005. With his consistent play, Thatcher ranks No. 10 on the money list and a victory would go a long way towards putting the 30-year-old inside The 25 and back on the PGA TOUR.
This is the best position that I have ever been in during this stage of the season on this tour, he said. Im trying to go out there early in the year and make a move, not just into the top 25, but as high on that list as I can get.
Over the course of the first two rounds, it appeared that Paul Claxton had his golf game on cruise control. Starting the day with a four-stroke lead and coming off consecutive rounds of 66, Claxton made bookend birdies on his front nine to move to 14 under for the tournament. But as conditions worsened and the course began to show its teeth, Claxton bogeyed four holes on the back nine and finished the round one stroke behind Thatcher. But Claxton said that he is still satisfied being in the final group on Sunday.
I would have taken it at the start of the week, he said. Im a little disappointed with the way I played the back nine today, but it was tough out there. The winds were blowing this afternoon and the greens got very firm. I went from playing in perfect conditions as the first group out yesterday to some pretty tough conditions as the last group out today. But thats golf. You just learn from what happened today and try to stay positive and get ready for tomorrow.
Claxton ranks No. 3 on the money list. He won earlier this year at the Melwood Prince Georges County Open near Washington D.C. and has five top-25 finishes this season. With a strong finish on Sunday, Claxton could make up the $43,296 difference between himself and tours leading money-winner Nick Flanagan and take over the top spot on tour.
Brenden Pappas shot the low round of the day with a scorching 7-under-par 65. The bogey-free round moved the 2006 Rex Hospital Open champion from T44 to T3. Pappas hit 16 of 18 greens for his round and says that it takes four rounds at this tournament.
I know the golf course and here, its never over until its over, said the 37-year-old South African. I think a good score out there today was a 69, so I exceeded that by four shots.