Saunders still searching for Tour magic

Sam Saunders speaks at the Bob Hope Classic.

Sam Saunders speaks at the Bob Hope Classic.

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – Sam Saunders, the grandson of Arnold Palmer, is taking his licks out on the PGA Tour. Through three PGA Tour starts, he has yet to play a tournament’s final round (he played on Sunday with amateur partner Dick Ferris in the team competition of the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am). But Saunders says he’s learning from his missteps and preparing to move on to better days.

Saunders recorded a career-best Tour round of 5-under 66 in the first round of the Waste Management Phoenix Open. After his bogey-free round Thursday, Saunders, who left Clemson after his junior year to pursue a pro golf career, said he’s starting to feel more comfortable on Tour. He offered these bravely optimistic words when asked what he’s learned about his game: “I’ve learned that I can hang out here,” he said.

But one day later, Saunders shot a 79 in the second round and missed the cut by six shots.

So far, Saunders has little to show for his work, except for a T-70 at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am.

“Technically, I made the cut so that was a stepping stone,” Saunders said of cashing his first check for $11,842, despite his “made cut did not finish.”

Saunders received a sponsor’s exemption, his fourth of the year, into this week’s Honda Classic and will give it another shot. Don’t be surprised to see him in the field at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, where he competed once before as an amateur. Saunders also said he expects to be given a sponsor’s exemption into the Greenbrier Classic in late July, and is hoping to land one more.

Once he maxes out on the allowed seven PGA Tour sponsorship exemptions, Saunders intends to play some Nationwide Tour events.

“I’d love to get hot out there, make some top 25s, and play my way into some status,” he said.

If that fails, he said he expects to play some Hooters Tour events, too.

“I’m going to play a full schedule,” he said.

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