RENO, Nev. (AP) — John Rollins doubled his lead in the Legends Reno-Tahoe Open, shooting a 5-under 67 on Saturday to move four strokes ahead of Ryan Palmer and set up a final-round pairing between two good friends who live a mile apart in Texas and started the day eating breakfast together.
Rollins, who tied the course record with a 62 on Friday, had three birdies and three bogeys during an up-and-down front nine. But he followed a 14-foot birdie putt with a 30-foot eagle on the par-5 11th and added two birdies to finish at 17-under 199 at Montreux Golf & Country Club on the edge of the Sierra.
“I told my caddie going down the 10th fairway we just needed to settle down and kind of right the ship and just try to get a good back nine and we’d be in position,” Rollins said.
“Sure enough, we go out and birdie 10, eagle 11 and then make a great putt on 13 for birdie and then birdied 18 to finish,” said the two-time winner on the PGA Tour who tied for second at Reno last year and was the runner-up this year at the Honda Classic and the Buick Invitational.
Palmer started the round five strokes off the lead, but birdied three of the first four holes and shot a 66 to reach 13 under.
“I couldn’t ask for a better spot to be in,” said Palmer, who also has won twice on tour, including last year’s Ginn sur Mer Classic.
“I striped it that front nine and made a bunch of short birdie putts. I didn’t get ahead of myself and just kept hitting fairways and greens.”
Palmer owed part of his success to his caddie’s tennis shoes. He borrowed them to get a better stance when he was forced to hit a shot on the 15th hole off the cement cart path because a free drop would have put him out of bounds.
“You can’t get very good footing with spikes on the cart path,” he said. “I called an official over and asked if I could wear my caddie’s shoes. I knew he was part of my equipment and so I kind of got smart for a change … I got good footing and put the club on the ball and hit a great shot.”
Joe Ogilvie was another stroke back after a bogey-free 66 that included an eagle and four birdies.
“Could have been a 64, but 66 is good,” Ogilvie said.
Martin Laird (66) was 11 under. He finished birdie-birdie-birdie-eagle, holing a 77-yard approach to the par-4 18th that spun back 20 feet into the cup to the roar of the gallery.
“I knew it was going to spin back,” he said. “Then the crowd was getting louder and louder as the ball was getting closer to the hole. I knew I had a chance and it was nice to see it disappear.”
Rocco Mediate was at 10-under 206 after consecutive 68s. Chris Riley, who shot a 9-under 27 on the front nine Friday, had a 71 to get to 9 under. He was tied with 2003 PGA champions Shaun Micheel (73) and Robert Garrigus (71), who double-bogeyed the 18th. Billy Mayfair shot a bogey-free 64 – the best round of the day – to join J.J. Henry (65), Kevin Na (67), Jeff Quinney (70) and former Nevada Wolf Pack star Rich Barcelo (71) at 8 under.
Rollins said he was looking forward to playing with Palmer.
“We actually had breakfast together this morning. So it’s kind of funny now we’re going to be paired together in the final round,” Rollins said. “It will be relaxing for both of us and hopefully the two of us can go out and play well. And whoever plays better will be the last man standing.”
Palmer, whose wife is expecting their second child in about three weeks back home in Colleyville, Texas, said he and Rollins don’t play much golf together there.
“But our wives are friends,” Pamler said. “They have a little daughter. So we go to each other’s birthday parties. It will be fun playing with him. I know we’re both looking forward to it.”