CLYMER – The bad news is, Rhein Gibson’s score Saturday during the third round of the LECOM Health Challenge is 13 strokes worse than the best score of his career.
The good news is, Gibson once shot a 55. So his 68 on Peek’n Peak’s Upper Course was still 4-under par and gives him a one-shot lead heading into Sunday’s final round (1 p.m., Golf Channel).
First, about that 55.
Gibson shot it in May 2012 at the River Oaks Golf Club in his adopted hometown of Edmond, Okla., making 12 birdies and two eagles on the 6,698-yard, par-71 course. As far as conversation starters go, that’s not a bad one.
“Long story short, we weren’t even going to play,” Gibson said. “It had been raining. We had the first tee time out, and 3½ hours later I was 16-under.”
Nothing to it, right?
Gibson’s round is recognized by the Guinness Book of World Records as the lowest of all time. His score matched a 55 shot by Homero Blancas on a par-70 course in Texas in 1962.
“It got ratified and published in the 2013 book, so that’s pretty cool,” Gibson said.
After the record-setting round, Gibson told USA Today that he was a “pretty humble guy” and that if “people want to talk about it, I’m happy to talk about it. But it’s not like I’m going to bring it up or get a tattoo on my arm.”
Gibson does have one way of signifying the milestone round, though. His Twitter handle is @RheinGibson55.
Not that there’s anything wrong with being known as “the guy who shot 55,” but Gibson is an accomplished player who last year finished in the top 25 of the Web.com Tour money list to earn his PGA Tour card for this season. In 16 starts on the big tour, he’s made nine cuts and collected more than $108,000.
He’s only here this week because the PGA’s stop in West Virginia was cancelled because of flooding.
Gibson is making the most of his revised plans, carding a second consecutive round of 68 Saturday following an opening 64 to reach 16-under, one shot clear of American Erik Barnes and Taiwan’s Cheng Tsung Pan.
The 30-year-old opened Saturday’s round with two bogeys in the first three holes, then but closed the front nine with a pair of birdies to make the turn at even. He then played 4-under coming in.
It started “a little bit shaky, but I knew I’d been playing well all week,” he said. “I stayed patient. … It was kind of tricky with the wind, but happy to finish birdie-birdie.”
Standing water continued to dot the fairways and bunkers in spots around the course, making for another day of soft conditions. The wind speeds significantly picked up, however, making things tougher.
“I never really hit a full iron shot into the greens,” Gibson said. “It’s either punch shots into the wind or three-quarter shots downwind. It was difficult to gauge the wind, but I’m happy with what I did and we’ll see what I can do tomorrow. It’s right where I want to be.”
Gibson ranks 209th on the Web.com Tour list this season, making one cut in just three starts. Were he to win, he’s projected to move all the way up to No. 20 on the money list, making for an interesting situation. If he stays inside the top 25, he’d secure his PGA Tour card for the 2016-17.
However, if he returns to the PGA Tour, he could fall out of the top 25. At this point, Gibson would consider that a good problem to have, because it means Sunday will end with a championship.
“It would be huge,” he said. “I really haven’t won on a real big stage on Tour. This would be the biggest win to date, for sure.”