Limbhasut leads after 54 holes

 

FLOSSMOOR, ILLINOIS (Thursday, June 19) – KK Limbhasut relentlessly attacked Flossmoor Country Club — a place where new course records were made and lasted mere hours at a time Thursday — and the reward was a record-tying 66 and a two-shot lead heading into the final round of the 2014 Western Junior Championship.

For the second consecutive day, Flossmoor was receptive to red numbers, and the cream of the crop went on a birdie tear. A total of 71 players made the cut at 8-over following the second round’s conclusion early Thursday morning; severe weather had halted play Wednesday before all players could finish 36 holes. Third-round play began at 9 a.m. off of split tees.

Wilson Furr, of Jackson, Mississippi, started the fireworks early. The highly regarded 15-year-old started out on the back nine and blitzed that stretch of holes in 5-under 31. Furr cooled off but remained steady to a post a 5-under 67, breaking the old course record by a stroke and leaving him 2-over through 54 holes and in a tie for seventh.

He attributed the round to his full game coming together.

“I’ve been hitting the ball well all week, but I hadn’t been making any putts,” Furr said. “They started going in for me on my front nine; I started making a couple of key 10-footers and that kind of got me going.”

The record round might have put Furr right back in the thick of contention if he had not simply been the opening act in a day where deep surges into the red became the norm.

The three second-round leaders teed off together late Thursday morning, and early on in that final group, all three were jockeying for position. Limbhasut, of Loma Linda, California, began the day one back but birdied the opening hole and rolled in a 20-footer on two for a birdie-birdie start.

Not to be outdone, 36-hole co-leader Daniel Wetterich, of Cincinnati, Ohio, birdied one and, following a bogey on No. 3, chipped in for another red score on the next hole.

As soon as those two reached 3-under though, the third member in the group, the other 36-hole co-leader Dawson Armstrong, turned up the heat. Armstrong, of Brentwood, Tennessee, and a future Libscomb Bison, rolled in a 20-footer for birdie on No. 6 and stuffed his approach shot on 7 to three feet to reach 4-under.

Armstrong and Limbhasut both made the turn at 4-under. Yet Limbhasut, who will be attending Cal next year, said Wednesday that if the conditions were calm over the final two rounds, he believed there would be a lot of red numbers. So when he reached 4-under, he wasn’t content to stay there.

"My goal at the beginning of the day was to get to four or five under," Limbhasut said. "But I got to four quicker than I thought, so I tried to keep it going."

He did just that. Limbhasut birdied 10, hit a beautiful approach to four feet on 13 and, after nailing that putt, punched in a 20-footer the very next hole to reach 6-under for the day and 7-under for the tournament.

That is where he finished, a product of his weeklong mastery of ball striking combined with a cooperative flatstick.

“I hit the same kind of shots, a lot of greens, but I was able to make the putts today,” Limbhasut said. “I gave a lot of chances for myself, but I was able to convert them today.”

Indeed, Limbhasut may have had a dozen birdie putts inside 20 feet, a circumstance that allowed him to eclipse Furr’s nearly two-hour old course record.

Except it had already been broken.

Luis Gagne, of Orlando, Florida, was in the group ahead of Limbhasut and matched his round shot for shot. The LSU verbal commit went out in 3-under 33 like Limbhasut and added four more birdies on the backside versus one bogey to come in at 6-under 66.

When Gagne holed his 7-footer for birdie on 18, it put him at 5-under overall and two back of Limbhasut. Gagne said all parts of his game were clicking Thursday, and gave an inkling as to this course’s sudden vulnerability.

“If you’re hitting fairways and hitting greens, it’s easy to score here,” Gagne said. “The greens are pretty soft, and they’re small. If you’re hitting greens, you’re going to have shorter birdie putts.”

Despite the easier conditions, only four players were under par heading into the final day. Armstrong was in third at 4-under and Wetterich stood at fourth at 1-under. Nolan Ray, of Brentwood, Tennessee, and a future Tennessee Volunteer, tied Furr's course record, with a 67 of his own before Gagne claimed the record.

All scores are updated live throughout the week and can be viewed here.

-Kevin Casey