SUNRIVER, Ore. — It promises to be a wild finish to the 46th PGA Professional National Championship on Wednesday.
Four players are within two strokes of the lead at Sunriver Resort with 18 holes to play, and as was demonstrated in Tuesday’s third round, the course at Crosswater Club is subject to great momentum changes.
Bill Murchison of Woodstock, Ga., was headed for a score that likely would have been in the 80s after a triple-bogey 7 at the 14th hole, but he stormed to the clubhouse with a birdie-birdie-birdie-eagle finish, and even though he’s tied for 23rd place after 54 holes, he has plenty to play for on Wednesday; the top 20 finishers qualify for the 95th PGA Championship at Oak Hill Country Club in Rochester, N.Y., in August.
“I was really down and my emotions were getting the best of me,” said Murchison, who qualified for the 2012 PGA Championship and ended Tuesday’s round with a 167-yard 8-iron that one-hopped into the hole. “But my caddie picked me up and got me back in the mindset to go out there and finish strong. I felt really good over the shot at 18 and hit it perfect. I was struggling with the putter and watching the ball in the air, I didn’t want to have to make a long putt. It was nice not to have to putt it at all.”
The 54-hole co-leaders are 48-year-old Chip Sullivan of Troutville, Va., who won the PNC when it was last played at Sunriver Resort in 2007, and Mark Sheftic, a teaching professional at Merion Golf Club in Ardmore, Pa., the site of this year’s U.S. Open. Sheftic birdied the par-4 18th to tie Sullivan at 8-under 207, one stroke ahead of Rod Perry of Port Orange, Fla.
Ryan Polzin, the head professional at Royal Oaks Country Club in Houston, trails by two after a 2-under 70, and three-time champion Mike Small is in a group of three players at 4-under 211.
“I’ve played this course two times this week with no bogeys,” said Sullivan, who is a perfect 10-for-10 in 36 holes at the Crosswater Club getting up and down after missing a green. “I’m just going to stick to my game plan. I’m happy with where I am, but this course is totally different than it was in ’07. It’s wet, balls are sticking in the fairway. The rain started and stopped so many times today; I think I put my rain suit on and took it off eight or 10 times today. I’m worn out.”
The race for the 20 spots in this year’s PGA Championship promises to be equally exciting. Through 54 holes, the cutoff to qualify is even par, but there are 17 players just one back.
“I want to win,” said Danny Balin, who passed 17 players with an even-par 72 that advanced him into a share of 16th place. “I finished in the top 20 the last three years. My goal is to win. Yes, although playing in the PGA is would be awesome, at the end of the day, I want to win.”