By Greg K. Deal
Shorelines Magazine Editor & Publisher
McCORMICK, S.C. - Brian Richey has been in the final pairing in the final round three times this year on the NGA Pro Golf Tour.
He was tied for the lead heading into the final round in his last tournament, but one of his buddies played really well and won. Richey, of Lakeland, Fla., is hoping the fourth time is a charm for him as he aims to turn his wire-to-wire Savannah Lakes Village Classic lead into his first tour victory on Sunday at the Monticello Course in McCormick.
Richey shot a 1-under-par 71 in Saturday’s third round to get to 14 under for the tournament, three strokes ahead of Tyson Alexander, of Gainesville, Fla., who moved to within striking distance of Richey at 11 under par. Alexander, already a winner of the tour this year, shot a 3-under-par 69. Clayton Rask, of Otsego, Minn., also was 3 under on Saturday and stands at 10 under for the tournament.
Three players are tied at 8 under, and three others are at 7 under.
Richey said he’s looking forward to the challenge of scoring his first win on Sunday. “I would like to play a solid round,” Richey said. “I’ve been knocking on the door several times, so, hopefully, we can get that one done tomorrow.”
Richey says he envisions himself being a winner every day when he practices. “That’s what you think about,” he said.
Richey got off to hot starts in the first two rounds, but he cooled off a bit on the third day at the beautiful lakeside course on the border of South Carolina and Georgia. “I really didn’t have any fireworks,” he said. “… just kind of a solid round.”
He was at 3 under for the day through 11 holes – and he birdied three of the par 5s – but “then I made a couple of sloppy bogeys coming in,” he said. “One of them was a good shot. It just ended up in a bad spot. The other was kind of my fault. I didn’t really hit a good shot. But (only) three bogeys for a week out here is pretty good.”
Richey said the greens are firm and you “have to be in good control of your golf ball, and you gotta be able to grind. You’ve gotta be battling on every shot when you have greens like this.”
Richey said he wasn’t playing too conservatively and wasn’t doing much scoreboard watching.
“I would say I was still trying to swing aggressively, but I might have taken a couple of more conservative lines on a couple of holes,” he said.
The wind picked up on the back nine, and Richey counted that into his approach; however, he said he thought he “played it tough.”
“I just didn’t see many birdies today,” he said. “After the first 12 or 13 holes, the greens were so firm you had to be precise to get the ball close to the hole. I was pleased. I certainly didn’t play my best golf today, but I grinded out a good round under par, so I’m definitely happy about that.”
Richey knows he has the experience of being near the front of the pack, but he said it still won’t be easy closing out with a victory.
“People are trying to come get you,” he said. “You just have to stay focused on each shot that you’re hitting, stick to your routines, stick to your game plan, and just go about things the same way.”
And he won’t be scoreboard watching too much on Sunday, either.
“The majority of the round, you’ve got to go handle your business,” he said. “It doesn’t matter what the other groups are doing until that last hole or two.”
Visit the NGA Website for full scores, scorecards and Sunday tee times.