RUMFORD, R.I. – Since his opening-round 63, Jordan Russell has been singing the song “Catch Me If You Can” to the rest of the field.
He’ll be sounding out that tune once again Saturday, although it might be not as loud, when he takes a slim two-shot lead into the final 18 holes in the 51st Northeast Amateur at the par-69, Donald Ross-designed Wannamoisett Country Club course.
For Russell, who competed his college career at Texas A&M this past spring, his third-round 71 Friday was very much uneventful. One birdie, three bogeys. Nothing fancy. Not overly exciting.
Still it was enough to keep him in the lead with a 7-under 200 total.
“My speed on the greens was just not as good today,” said Russell, a second-team All-American in his junior season at Texas A&M. “I hit the a lot of good iron shots and a lot of good looks (at birdie), but they (putts) just didn’t want to fall.”
Tim Jackson, 53 and the oldest player in the field, and Bobby Hebert, a senior at Auburn, are Russell’s nearest pursuers, at 5-under 202. Jackson went up and down and shot 1-over 70, while Hebert came in with an impressive 4-under 65.
Two more shots back at 3-under 204 are Justin Shin, a senior at New Mexico State, and 44-year-old Todd White, who won this championship in 1990. White is the only player in the field to have all three rounds under par, shooting 1-under 68 each day.
Rick Lamb, Cory Whitsett and Bobby Wyatt were in at 205 while six others were at 1 under.
Russell just never could get anything going. He made bogey at Nos. 6 and 10, a birdie at 13 and another bogey at 16.
Still, he’s not complaining about where he stands at this stage of the tournament.
“I’d much rather be in the lead than in the middle of the pack,” he said. “Everyone is still chasing me, even if it is a little tighter. I just need to go out tomorrow and make some putts, whether it’s for par or birdie. Just go play the best I can and shoot as low as possible.”
Jackson’s round was a bit more of a roller coaster. He three-putted on holes 3 and 4 for bogeys, came back with birdies at 5 and 7, then made bogey at 8 and turned in 1 over. He made bogey at the 11th but got that stroke back with a birdie at 17, the course’s only par-5 hole.
“I just couldn’t get the pace of the greens,” said Jackson, a two-time U.S. Mid-Amateur champion and two-time U.S. Walker Cup team member. “I hit a few loose shots and just wasn’t able to take advantage of some of the opportunities I had.”
Hebert said he’s had “good vibes after playing here last year. I’ve been drawing a lot of positives from that.”
A year ago, Hebert finished at 7-under 269, the seventh-best score in tournament history. However, winner Peter Uihlein shot a record 15-under 261 and Hebert tied for seventh.
Hebert made the turn in 2 under with birdies at Nos. 7 and 8. Then things got wild and crazy.
He birdied 11, double bogeyed the par-3 12th, birdied 14, 15, 16 and 17 and closed with a bogey.
“All around, it was solid, nothing really too crazy,” Hebert said. “Mainly I hit fairways and greens and made some putts. Tomorrow should be fun. It always is when you’re in the hunt the last day.”
Temperatures again reached the mid-90s, but just as the final twosome finished the round, the sky opened up and rain, thunder and lightning covered the course. The storm front is expected to bring cooler weather to the area for Saturday’s final round.
SHORT SHOTS: Low round of the day was shot by Rick Lamb, a senior at Tennessee, who fired a 5-under 64. Lamb had six birdies (1, 2, 11, 13, 14, 17) and one bogey (10) . . . The starting field of 82 was cut to the low 50 scores and ties after the third round, and it took 7-over par 214 to make the grade, which 53 players did . . . The average score for the field on Friday was 70.378, with the 190-yard, par-3 eighth hole playing the most difficult, at 3.32, and once again the 558-yard, par-5 17th the easiest, at 4.72.