Rookie Lingmerth a surprise leader at Sawgrass


PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – Since David Lingmerth lost in a playoff in January at the Humana Challenge, the 2013 season has largely been a struggle for the PGA Tour rookie. That all could change Sunday at TPC Sawgrass.

While many of the leaders struggled to mount a charge during the third round, the 25-year-old Swede ended his day in style, holing an eagle putt at the 16th and following that up with birdie on the infamous 17th. At 12 under, he finds himself two shots clear of the field with 19 holes on the horizon Sunday.

“Obviously, thrilled to be in this position,” said Lingmerth, who will return to the 18th tee early Sunday morning to complete his third round. “It’s going to be a fun day tomorrow.”

To say that Lingmerth’s rise to the top of the leaderboard this week is a surprise would be an understatement. Since his tie for second in Palm Springs, he’s made exactly 10 starts. The results? A tie for 50th, a tie for 51st and eight missed cuts – including five in a row. According to Lingmerth, that recent drought didn’t affect his optimism heading into the week.

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“My game was feeling a lot better than missing five cuts in a row, I can promise you that,” he explained. “It was kind of frustrating because I couldn’t get anything out of my game really. But now this week I’ve been able to score, which obviously helped.”

Though he leads by two shots, Lingmerth has three players lurking in a tie for second – all three of whom have won this event before. He admitted after the round to being aware of the presence of names like Woods, Garcia and Stenson immediately below his, but plans to continue a habit Sunday of not peeking at leaderboards very often.

“Having those guys behind me, I know they’re going to try to hunt me down, of course,” he added. “But I’m just going to try to forget about all that and do my thing.”

A former standout at the University of Arkansas, Lingmerth has exactly one professional win to his credit: the Tour’s 2012 Neediest Kids Championship on another TPC venue, TPC Potomac in Maryland. Though it’s a far cry from what he’ll face Sunday at TPC Sawgrass, Lingmerth plans to use the experience from last year to his advantage.

“I know that it could be a little bit different to win the Players versus a Tour event, but it’s just a golf tournament,” he noted. “I’m just going to try to win it.”

With an early return to the course scheduled for Sunday morning, Lingmerth faces a quick turnaround before what is likely the biggest round of his young career. That short respite might be beneficial, since it’s unlikely he’ll be getting much rest with a two-shot lead to ponder.

“It will probably be a little hard to sleep, maybe. But I’m feeling great about things, so hopefully that won’t be a problem,” he added. “We’ll see.”