China Carl Yuan knows the weight of a nation will be on his shoulders as he chases an historic PGA TOUR victory at the Sanderson Farms Championship.
A third round of 5-under 67 at The Jackson Country Club in Mississippi on Saturday kept the 26-year-old Yuan in solo second place behind overnight leader Ben Griffin, who carded a bogey-free 66 to lead by three strokes on 20-under.
Yuan’s compatriot, Marty Zecheng Dou, carded a 68 for a share of sixth pace on 16-under as he maintained his fight to retain his PGA TOUR card in the second of seven FedExCup Fall events while Chinese Taipei’s C.T. Pan shot a 69 for T18.
Like Dou, Yuan is battling to maintain his playing rights in the world’s leading circuit where he entered the week ranked 151st on the FedExCup standings but utmost on his mind is also trying to deliver China’s first ever PGA TOUR win.
“Yeah, for sure it means a great deal to me, to my country. Definitely there’s something I definitely carry on my shoulders, and I’m looking forward to playing great tomorrow,” said Yuan.
In 29 previous starts on TOUR, he has not finished in the top-10, with a best of T14 recorded at the Rocket Mortgage Classic in July. But Yuan has been on form through 54 holes, hitting seven birdies against two bogeys in his round with the longest putt being from 20 feet on the 13th hole. He also ranked first in Strokes Gained: Tee to Green.
“I think I definitely hit a lot of solid shots. I think just being very smart, knowing where to leave the shots. I think I did a pretty good job of it. I really trust my lag putts. I know I’m going to have some lag putts on those fast green, and I worked quite a bit on distance control on those. I was comfortable hitting it to 20 feet, 30 feet from a tough spot and know I’m going to have a chance of rolling it in. I had a couple really good putts that barely lipped out. But yeah, I was happy with the way I played the course today,” said Yuan.
Despite his struggles in his rookie season competing against the world’s best golfers where he has missed 15 cuts this season, Yuan accepts he is still on a learning curve after gaining ‘promotion’ from the Korn Ferry Tour last season.
“I wouldn’t say stay more level emotionally, but just accept good shots or bad shots. It’s just a golf shot, good or bad, stay focused on the next one and move on,” he said. “I would love to see more kids and more players out of China playing on the big TOUR out here, for sure. I’ll do what I can to help grow the game back home.”
Dou, who sits right on the bubble to regain his TOUR card in 125th position, made six birdies against two bogeys, to trail the leader by five shots heading into the final round.
Griffin was delighted to put himself in pole position for a career breakthrough victory on the PGA TOUR after a 66 featuring six birdies.
“Was very proud of myself the way I stuck to the game plan, and I missed a few tee shots on the back nine but was able to escape, and that’s always been one of the strengths of my career. As much as I want to be aggressive, I’ve learned on the PGA TOUR you’ve got to be extremely disciplined. It’s fun when I mis-hit shots because it gives me the opportunity to pull off something creative, but it’s a lot more fun when you have stress-free golf, and I felt like I did a good job of that for probably 14, 15 holes today,” he said.
Third-Round Notes – Saturday, October 7, 2023
Weather: Sunny and breezy. High of 72. Wind N 10-15 mph, with gusts to 20 mph.
|1||Ben Griffin||67||63||66||196 (-20)|
|2||Carl Yuan||66||66||67||199 (-17)|
|T3||Scott Stallings||68||67||65||200 (-16)|
|T3||Henrik Norlander||65||67||68||200 (-16)|
|T3||Luke List||66||66||68||200 (-16)|