Scott Piercy made sure Steve Elkington didn’t steal all the thunder as the 1995 PGA champion made a run up the leaderboard at the Reno-Tahoe Open.
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Piercy reeled off eight consecutive birdies to post a 28 on the front nine and eagled the 616-yard closing hole Saturday to break the course record with an 11-under 61. He was at 13-under 203 after three rounds and held a two-stroke lead over Josh Teater.
Elkington, who has 10 career wins on tour but none since 1999, was another stroke back after he followed a 65 with a 68. He’s tied for third with 2006 Reno champ Chris Riley, a former UNLV star who also shot 68 on Saturday, Pat Perez (65), John Merrick (66), Blake Adams (67) and first-round leader Nick O’Hern (69).
Vaughn Taylor, a two-time Reno winner who led after two rounds with a 66 on Friday, shot even par Saturday and was tied with 2007 champ Steve Flesch (70) at 9-under. Like Elkington and Riley, they teed off late in the day when the swirling wind picked up on the 7,472-yard mountain course at the Montreux Golf & Country Club on the edge of the Sierra.
Piercy has won twice on the Nationwide Tour but is winless in three years on the PGA Tour. His birdie barrage on the front matched both the longest such streak and lowest nine holes in relation to par posted on tour this season. He was one shy of the course record for nine holes set by Riley when he fired a 27 on what is now the back nine in 2008.
The 32-year-old Las Vegas native said he didn’t really think about shooting a 59, but knew he was one away from the PGA record nine consecutive birdies Mark Calcavecchia had in the second round of the 2009 RBC Canadian Open.
”It was fun to see the ball go in the hole,” said Piercy, who currently is ranked 142nd on the PGA money list with $365,162 and has $2.2 million in career earnings.
Piercy said he was frustrated the first two rounds because he hit the ball well but couldn’t get putts to drop;
”I told my caddie yesterday if I can keep hitting it well and get a few balls to go in the hole, we might do something special,” he said. ”I didn’t think this, but I’ll take it when I can get it, you know?”
Elkington, 48, last won 12 years ago at the Doral Ryder Open. He has not missed the cut in the seven times he’s played at Reno and only once failed to make the top 25, his best effort a tie for sixth in 2007.
”The wind was very tricky so I was very pleased with 4-under,” he said. ”Piercy was making it look easy with eight birdies in a row and all that, but it wasn’t like that this afternoon. `’
Elkington predicted ”a great final round.”
”I’ve always enjoyed this tournament,” he said. ”Me and my family go stay at Lake Tahoe and we just have a ball. The golf is a bonus this week for sure.”
Piercy began the day at 2-under, seven strokes off the lead in a tie for 45th.
The San Diego State graduate parred No. 1 and then followed with eight straight birdies, including holing out from about 15 yards in the fairway on the 491-yard, par-4 No. 5. His longest birdie putt was from 20 feet. Four were from inside 10 feet, including a 6-footer on the par-4 9th.
The streak ended on the par-4 10th when he missed a 27-foot birdie putt. He followed with three more pars – missing a 10-footer for birdie on the par-5 13th.
”I wasn’t thinking 59,” Piercy said. ”If I would have made the birdie on 13 I might have thought about it a little more.”
Piercy followed with consecutive birdies then made his only bogey of the day on the difficult 464-yard, par-4 17th when he hit into the creek that runs through the fairway.
On the par-5 18th, he drove the ball 340 yards and then hit a 4-iron 275 yards to inside 7 feet before dropping the eagle putt for 61 – three better than his previous career best he last recorded at the 2010 Wyndham Championship.
Last year, Graham DeLaet became the most recent among six players to tie Montreux’s old course record of 62.
Teater won the Nationwide Tour’s Utah Championship in 2009 and has four top 10 finishes in his second year on the PGA Tour. The Kentucky native who shot a 66 Saturday said he’s looking forward to Sunday’s finale.
”It’s going to be a shootout and we’re all going to try to birdie every hole,” Teater said.
Perez, who has three top 10s this year and is 80th on the money list, had four birdies and an eagle for a 29 on the back nine.
”I played like that actually all three days and I finally just put together the nine holes,” Perez said.
Piercy’s consecutive birdies equaled Chris Stroud’s streak from Nos. 9-16 in the second round of the Mayakoba Golf Classic in Mexico in February. His 8-under 28 on the par-36 front nine ties the 28 Nick Watney had in the final round of the Farmers Insurance Open in January. Watney also had an 8-under 27 on the par-35 back nine in the third round of the AT&T National in July.