GLENVIEW, Ill. – Here, according to Highwood’s Patrick Flavin, is the secret to playing consistently good golf: “The biggest key is one shot at a time, like today.”
Today being Tuesday at The Glen Club, where he scored his second consecutive 64 in the Illinois Open, this one of the 8-under variety on top of Monday’s 7-under-par 64 at Briarwood Country Club.
Those back-to-back 64s not only add up to a gaudy 15-under 128 for the Miami University senior, but to a six-stroke lead over football equipment salesman Brandon Holtz of Bloomington and Web.com Tour member Eric Meierdierks of Wilmette in Flavin’s quest to add the Illinois Open title to the Illinois Amateur crown he pocketed last month.
The formidable duo of defending champion Carlos Sainz Jr. and Walker Cup hopeful Nick Hardy are seven in arrears after matching 7-under 65s for 8-under 135, a score that usually leads this championship with a round to go.
“I’m playing really well and having a lot of fun,” Flavin said after his second bogey-free round in succession. “
He birdied his first hole for the second straight round and immediately felt at home. He felt even more comfortable after birdies on No. 5, 7 and 9 to go out in 4-under 32. Another quartet of birdies, including three straight on Nos. 14 through 16, followed to complete the 64. His total of 128 is four strokes lower than Sainz scored in the first 36 holes of his runaway 5-stroke victory last year. He led Christian Heavens and Brad Hopfinger by four strokes and won by five, and has a theory on how pressure could affect the leader.
“Get within three or two, and you’ll get in his kitchen sink a little bit,” Sainz said. “So go low, and see what happens on the back nine.”
Sainz thought his 65 could have been better, and not just because he splashed his approach on the par-5 18th into the pond.
“My proximity to the hole was really close,” Sainz said. “Tomorrow, I can’t tell myself I’m going to shoot 8-under. You can have opportunities, but that’s execution. With that big a lead, you have to start out well.”
Holtz’s 4-under 68 was punctuated by an eagle 3 on the par-5 14th, on which the big bomber from Bloomington had only 157 yards remaining for his approach and sank a 25-foot putt. He added a birdie at the last and goes into the final round in something of a Walter Mitty mood. He played for Illinois State, but basketball, not golf.
“It was always natural,” Holtz said of his golf, which included three years pounding the mini-tour trail before he decided to get a real job, selling helmets and other football gear to youth leagues for Riddell. “I’d be happy if I won, surprised. But you’ve just got to play good at the right time.”
Meierdierks, who recorded five birdies, including a pair of 20-footers, and one bogey, has played with Flavin for two days and will do so again on Wednesday, so he knows firsthand what he’s up against.
“He’s making a few putts,” Meierdierks said. “It’s really fun to watch. He’s making the short ones and sprinkling in 15-footers.
“I’m just going to keep doing what I’m doing. Keep it under the hole. Not do anything stupid. I’ve had leads like that. You can win by 10 or start thinking.”
Hardy revived his game with a competitive-best 10-birdie outburst, but a double-bogey on the par-4 eighth and a bogey on the par-4 12th crimped his style. Still, firing a 65 pulled him into the tie for fourth.
“Patrick’s playing great; I’ve just got to go out and make birdies,” Hardy said. “Find my rhythm and make some putts.”
For Flavin, a steady round on Wednesday may be all he’ll need to complete the Open-Amateur double in the state, matching David Ogrin’s 1980 feat. For the rest, the chase is on, and the question is how low they would need to go. Some may stay up late pondering the question.
“I’ll sleep great,” Flavin said.
Those with six-stroke leads tend to do so.
Around the Open
Dakun Chang of Long Grove scored an albatross on the par-5 14th, but even with the 2 on his card, his 3-over 75 consigned him to a total of 10-over 153. He missed the cut (1-over 144) by nine strokes. Fifty-one players, 19 of them amateurs, made the final round. The total purse is $95,000, the first prize to be announced Wednesday. ... Andrew Godfrey of Homewood was on pace for a 63 until a double-bogey on his 16th hole, the par-4 seventh. ... The scoring averages at The Glen Club (73.38) and Briarwood (78.84) were reversed as the field shifted sites, the better half of the draw 5.46 strokes better.