Two tied for lead as NGA tourney heads into final round
NATCHEZ — After a long round and a half of golf Friday, Jordan Farmer came into Saturday’s conclusion of round two behind — both days and months behind, in fact.
Jordan shot a 75 in round one of the National Golf Association’s Magnolia Bluffs Casino Classic, but the round was divided into two days because of heavy rain in the area Thursday. He was unable to conclude his second round of play until Saturday morning, shooting another 75 and missing the cut.
But the weather delay wasn’t his only setback. This weekend marked the first time Farmer has played in several months because of back surgery, and he said he was happy to be able to participate despite his game being rusty.
“It was fun,” Farmer said. “They had the course set up great. This is my first time back, and I wanted to give it a go. It was my first pro tournament in Natchez since I’ve been playing, so I figured I would try it out and see what it was like, and I enjoyed it.”
Round three of the classic began late Saturday morning, and it was the first round of this week’s classic that was able to conclude in a single day. Ryan Blaum and Derek Rende were tied for the lead with a 16-under-par 200, followed by Chase Seiffert with a 14-under-par 202.
Blaum said he was pleased with his third-round performance, in which he shot a 65, after a disappointing second round that saw him shoot a 72, even though he was still tied for the lead at 135 heading into Saturday.
“I was just hoping to get back to how I played the first round (shooting 63),” Blaum said. “(Friday) was a really long day playing 33 holes, so I got a lot of good rest, slept like a baby and was trying to come out here and do the same thing I did with the first 18 holes.”
Rende, who concluded his second round Saturday morning shooting 67, tied with Blaum by shooting 66 in round three. Rende got off to a hot start in round three, sitting at five-under par through eight holes before getting a birdie on 10 and 11. He then double-bogeyed 11 before making several pars to conclude his day. Rende said having a three-hour break between two rounds didn’t throw him off his game at all.
“I try to just stick with what I do, get to the course at the same time, just relax there for a couple of hours and didn’t think about golf,” Rende said.
Both Blaum and Rende have the final round on their minds, as the winner of the classic gets a bye to compete in the Sanderson Farms Championship PGA Tour event in Jackson next weekend. The runner-up will get an exemption to compete in the Web.com Tour’s News Sentinel Open in August in Knoxville, Tenn.
Blaum, who has competed on the PGA Tour in the past and has already won three NGA events, said he can only worry about himself heading into the final round today.
“If I play my game — I can’t control what anyone else does — so I’m going to take what the course gives me, see where the pins are, try to hit the smart shot at the smart time, and whatever happens, happens,” Blaum said.
For Rende, a win at the classic would be his first on the NGA Tour.
“It’ll be fun tomorrow,” Rende said. “I’m happy to have a chance, and my game has been progressing in the right direction lately, so that’s exciting.”
And though neither the PGA nor the Web.com options are bad, Rende said he wants to win today.
“They’re both good options, but we’re going to try for the win and see what happens after that,” he said.
Natchez native Stephen Hollingsworth was unable to make the cut after two rounds, shooting two 80s. But local Casey Ham currently sits at 8-under-par 208, and Ham said he was thrilled to make the cut.
“There’s a fine line between these boys and the PGA Tour,” Ham said. “These boys can play. They’re great players. That was my goal, to make the cut with them and play solid.”
Ham admitted that the rain delay threw him off, but he was able to fight through it and shoot eight-under.
“(Friday) I started cramping up about 13 holes to go, and all I was doing was hitting a big cut into the fairway and just trying to make pars,” Ham said. “I was lagging every putt, and my caddy was like, ‘Watch this lag putt.’ I was just trying to lag it up and make par — I didn’t want to lose any ground.”
Heading into today, Ham said his mind is focused on making putts.
“You have to make putts,” Ham said. “That’s what all these boys do. They all hit the ball good, you just have to make putts — you have to get the ball in the hole.”
After three days of golfing, Ham said he wanted to thank everyone involved for making the classic possible.
“It’s a great event,” Ham said. “I hope they come back to Natchez. They seem to like coming here.”
After the conclusion of the classic, the NGA Tour’s money leader will earn an exemption for the PGA Tour’s Reno-Tahoe Open in August. Justin Lower entered this week in the lead with just more than $77,000, but he failed to make the cut after round two.