Steven Alker leads the field at weather-suspended Utah Championship
SANDY — The clouds were pesky, impolite and completely lacking golf etiquette at Willow Creek Country Club Saturday during the third round of the Web.com Tour’s Utah Championship.
After an original weather delay just short of two hours, the tournament eventually was postponed with the final group preparing putts on the No. 10 green and 21 golfers remaining on the course. However, nestled in between the sporadic weather, New Zealand native Steven Alker carded a 10-under 61 to take a one-stroke lead into day four.
Play will resume at 8 a.m. Sunday morning. Then, based on weather and time at the completion of the third round, tournament officials will determine whether to schedule two tee times for the day or potentially flow into Monday.
In six previous Web.com Tour tournaments, Alker’s lowest round was a 67 at the Brasil Classic. Up until Friday he had only broken 70 twice and was staring at another cut after shooting even par in the opening round of the Utah Championship. On Friday, however, he fired a 7-under 64 and then penciled 10 birdies on Saturday on hole Nos. 1, 2, 3, 6, 7, 8, 12, 14, 15 and 16 to shoot a 6-under 29 on the front and a 4-under 32 on the back.
Alker, whose best finish on the Web.com Tour is a tie for 17th place, is in the midst of the best stretch of his career. His greens in regulations inflated to 83.3 percent after Saturday’s round and his putts per greens in regulation dwindled down to 1.7. He currently ranks 149th on the money list with $12,183 yearly earnings. Considering the new player card format, Sunday could potentially boost Alker into the top 25 and guarantee him a spot in the 2012-13 PGA season.
His 61 scorecard is one of the all-time lows at Willow Creek, a stroke higher than the 60 set by Chad Collins on Friday. Collins entered two strokes ahead on the field after a record-setting 18 holes, but a 1:55 delay pushed his tee time back significantly.
Collins had three birdies (hole Nos. 3, 5 and 7) and three bogeys (hole Nos. 4, 6 and 9) on the opening nine holes. On No. 10, he crushed his tee shot smack dab in the fairway to set up an eagle opportunity. However, on his approach shot he faded well into the rough and eventually overshot the green into the back rough on the ensuing chip while still in birdie territory. Then, right before the weather horns sounded, he flopped 6 feet from the pin on a would-be par putt.
Collins still remains one back at 16-under, while Richard S. Johnson, Shane Bertsch, Roger Sloan, Ashley Hall, Alex Cejka and Adam Hadwin rest at 15-under. Of the leaders, only Johnson completed his entire round Saturday.
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