Stroud in position to earn first PGA Tour win
By Bob West
RIO GRANDE, Puerto Rico — With a bogey free 67 Saturday in the third round of the Puerto Rico Open, Chris Stroud put himself in position to win for the first time on the PGA Tour, and to revive a career that was at its low point heading into his 11th season as a pro.
Stroud rolled in a 15-foot birdie put on the par 5, 18th at Coca Beach Golf and Country Club to break a three-way tie and seize the outright lead with a 54-hole total of 15-under-par 201. Good friend D.A. Points and Bill Lunde are a stroke back and 10 others are within three shots.
For a 35-year-old veteran with so much on the line, the PN-G and Lamar ex looked cool and totally in control of his nerves in a round that saw him do most of his damage with birdies on three of the par 5s. It was his third consecutive day to play the par 5s in three under.
Asked by Golf Channel reporter Billy Ray Brown about his plan for Sunday, Stroud said it was to stay calm and be aggressive.
“I’m way overdue to win,” he said. “I’m playing very, very well right now. I need to try to get to 20 under or more. With these conditions, you have to make a lot of birdies. This is not a course where you can sit around and make pars. There are lots of guys close behind me.”
On a layout softened by rain, Stroud has made 18 birdies and only three bogeys. While he kept making birdies on Saturday, pars at the 10th and 11th were probably the key to his round.
He short-sided himself on the par 4, 10th, then nearly holed his bunker shot. On the par 3, 11th, he pushed his tee shot 20 yards right of the green, chipped from a soggy area to within 15 feet and holed the putt.
After Points, playing a hole behind him, took the lead, Stroud pulled into a tie with a birdie on the par 4, 13th. He, Points and Lunde were tied heading to the 600-yard, 18th, and Stroud made the only birdie.
The 35-year-old Stroud’s best ever PGA Tour finish was second at the 2013 Travelers Classic when he lost a sudden death playoff. He said that experience will help him and that he will not be scoreboard watching on Sunday, at least not early in the round.
“I am going to go out and stick to my game plan,” he said. “The only way that might change is if the wind picks up.”
A win Sunday would be a game changer for Stroud because he no longer has fully exempt status on the PGA Tour. He would soar way up the Fed Ex Cup points list and no longer be on the outside looking in for entry into most tournaments.
Final round of the Puerto Rico open will air live on the Golf Channel, starting at 1:30 p.m. Sunday.