Tragedy to triumph? Why third-round leader Nate Lashley is a feel-good story at Rocket Mortgage Classic

June 29, 2019
Nate Lashley, Rocket Mortgage Classic

Nate Lashley is 18 holes away from his first career PGA Tour victory, and what a story it would be.

The 36-year-old shot the round of the day Saturday, a bogey-free, nine-under 63. The CBS broadcast team has been digging up Lashley factoids, like how he sold real estate while kicking around on the mini tours, and how he won a mathematics award while in grade school. And most profoundly, a story of tragedy, and why this victory would be so meaningful: Lashley’s father, mother and girlfriend were killed in a plane crash after the three of them flew home after watching Lashley play in a tournament while he was a student at the University of Arizona. (Lashley’s father was piloting the private plane.) That event caused Lashley to drift away from the game, but here he is, 18 holes away from a title and an improbable, feel-good story. “We’re all rooting for him,” said Jim Nantz on the broadcast.

Lashley entered the week at No. 353 in the World Ranking, but Sunday he has a chance to win, and to do it while going wire-to-wire. It all starts with him on Sunday. He leads by six shots.

Surging: Patrick Reed

Reed hasn’t done much this season, and frankly he’s struggled a bit since winning the 2018 Masters. But he stormed into contention in Detroit thanks to a third-round 65, capped by four birdies on the back nine. He’s 15 under par, eight shots behind Lashley. Also shooting 65: Cameron Tringale (-16, seven back), Brian Stuard (-13, 10 back) and Brandt Snedeker (-12, 11 back).

Fading: Cameron Champ

Champ ranks first on Tour in driving distance, and this week he has a chance to crack the top 50 for the first time since Kapalua. But heading into Saturday Champ had his eyes on more than just a middle-of-the-pack paycheck — he played with Lashley in the final group, and began the round one shot back. But Lashley absolutely ran him over. Champ got nothing going all day, staggering to a 75 to tumble out of the tournament.

Currently second: J.T. Poston

The 26-year-old from Hickory, N.C., has five top-10s in three seasons on Tour, and he’ll play alongside Lashley in Sunday’s final pairing. Six shots is a significant deficit, but if anything happens to Lashley, Poston could find himself in position to claim his first title.

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