LEWISTON – There doesn’t seem to be much that bothers Geoff Drakeford on the golf course.
So even though a couple of bogeys Friday somewhat marred a 2-under 68 in the third round of the Porter Cup, Drakeford had plenty to smile about in the scoring tent.
“You’ve got to take the good with the bad,” he said. “You three putt here and there, what are you going to do? You just have to laugh.”
Drakeford, a 22-year-old from Traralgon, Australia, will take a three-shot lead into today’s final round at Niagara Falls Country Club.
A sand save for par on the par-3 18th made sure of that.
“I was quite confident because it was on the up slope and it was sitting fine,” Drakeford said. “I told Jarrod, ‘I’ll hole this one,’ but I didn’t. It was only a couple inches.”
Jarrod would be fellow Aussie Jarrod Freeman, who after finishing his round early in the day, jumped on Drakeford’s bag.
“We’re great mates and we just talk – not about golf,” Drakeford said. “It just takes your mind off the whole thing.”
An early birdie on the par-3 fifth hole after a wayward drive to the right helped get Drakeford into the round. While several players made a push around the turn, an eagle on the par-3 13th hole stretched Drakeford’s lead.
“There were some early nerves, but that cleared out after two holes. I really calmed down after that shot on No. 3,” he said. “On 13, I smashed a driver out the middle, I had about 237 meters to the pin, then hit a 3-wood to about 10 feet and rolled that one in.
“From there, I thought I was going to be cruising, but hit a couple of bad putts.”
Drakeford dropped shots at the par-4 14th and 17th holes, the latter when his tee shot found the trees on the left. That gave the rest of the field some hope.
“I didn’t really pay too much attention,” Drakeford said of his spot on the leader board, “because you never really know. There could be someone who is two groups up that’s tearing it up.”
That wasn’t the case Friday. Among players in the top 10, the best round was a 5-under 65 turned in by Beau Hossler, moving him up from a tie for 21st to a tie for fourth, at 5-under.
Another Aussie, Ben Eccles, and Englishman David Boote will join Drakeford in the final grouping today, going off at noon. The first tee time of the day will be at 8 a.m.
While Drakeford was able to piece together an under-par round, his playing partners Friday in the final group weren’t. Pittsford’s Gavin Hall – who helped to produce a solid gallery on a gorgeous day – shot 2-over 72. His round was tripped up by back-to-back bogeys on the par-3 12th and par-5 13th holes.
“I birdied 11, but then on 12, I just caught a gust of wind and it took it right into the water,” Hall said. “No. 13 was the same thing. I was just battling all day. You don’t want to let the conditions overpower you.”
Hall is at 4-under 206 through 54 holes, well within striking distance, he believes.
“If they keep the pins similar, in tough spots, then I think the golf course is going to play harder,” he said. “It’s going to be pretty firm. I’m pretty excited. If I can go out and shoot 63 or 64 – get to double digits – I think that can really win.”
Denny McCarthy, a 21-year-old senior at the University of Virginia, completed the final threesome Friday. He struggled to a round of 3-over 73.
In his fourth Porter Cup appearance, McCarthy desperately wants to win a green jacket.
“It’s easy to forget about a round quickly,” he said. “Everyone is in such a good mood all the time around here, so it’s easy to put it behind me and focus on tomorrow. I’m seven back. I can go out there and make some noise early. I put myself in some tough spots today on the early holes. I didn’t have my best stuff, and I was still even through 11.”
McCarthy’s round, though, suffered from a double bogey on the par-3 12th hole when he flew the green, then had a messy two putt.
He’ll have to go deep into the red numbers today to catch Drakeford, who’s currently ranked No. 9 by the Scratch Players World Amateur Ranking.
Drakeford said his approach won’t change today.
“Stay confident,” he said, “and don’t get ahead of yourself.”