COLUMBIA Ben Fogler will not change his approach in Sunday’s final round of the 82nd South Carolina Amateur for the best of reasons: He is blitzing the star-studded field.
Fogler stretched his lead to five strokes with a 4-under-par 67 Saturday at the Members Club’s Woodcreek course and stands at 14-under 199 after three trips around the 6,942-yard layout in Elgin.
“I just want to play one shot at a time and add the scores at the end,” said Fogler, the son of former USC basketball coach Eddie Fogler and a rising junior at Vanderbilt who is playing his home course.
For the posse in pursuit, here’s a scary thought.
“I wasn’t quite as sharp today,” Fogler, who opened with back-to-back 66s, said and noted three missed birdie putts from inside 5 feet.
Those times he gets into trouble, he escaped. Case in point: his second shot on the par-5 14th point sailed wide right, made a kangaroo hop off the cart path and settled on a bed of straw with a pine cone resting against the back of the ball.
“The pine cone presented the hardest problem,” he said, but he solved that with a sand wedge third that skipped onto the green from about 30 yards and settled about 10 feet from the hole. He two-putted for par, then picked up his fifth birdie of the day and 19th of the tournament on No. 17.
“I don’t ever know what my lead is,” he said after signing his scorecard.
His pursuers know the margin and the challenge that awaits Sunday. Bryce Howell (Blythewood/Furman) shot 67, his third sub-par round, and gained no ground. Will Murphy (Columbia/USC) picked up one stroke with the day’s best score, a 5-under 66.
Howell, at 204, started slowly Saturday, gained momentum by saving par with a 30-foot birdie putt on No. 6 and picked up three birdies over the final seven holes.
“I can just play my game and not worry about anyone else” in the final round, Howell said.
Murphy used a flying finish — two birdies and an eagle — on the final five holes to finish at 205 and earn a place in the final threesome. With rounds of 70, 69 and 66, he is the only player among the leaders to improve his score each day.
“I putted solid all day,” he said. “I was 2-under at the turn, then hit a dead spot” — a bogey and three pars — before sizzling home. After birdieing the par-5 14th, he dropped a 10-footer for birdie on the tough par-4 16th and eagled the 17th, hitting a 5-iron second from 220 yards to within 6 feet.
Bunched at 206 and facing seven-shot deficits are Carson Young (Pendleton/Clemson), Stephen Behr (Florence/Clemson) and Jarrett Swan (Mount Pleasant/Charleston Southern). Behr matched the leader’s 67, Swan posted a 69 and Young finished at 70.
“I didn’t have a bogey, but that really doesn’t tell it all,” Behr said. “I had a lot of good up-and-downs to save par. I dug myself a huge hole in the first round (4-over 75), but I have climbed out of it (thanks to a second-round 64 before Saturday’s 67) and feel good about my game. The pins were tougher today.
“I’ve been lucky to be playing with friends and guys who have been playing well (Fogler and Caleb Sturgeon the first two days, Murphy and Rob Simmons on Saturday). We’ve had a good time. If I can play like I did Friday, I’ll be happy no matter what happens.”
Play starts Sunday morning off the first and 10th tees at 8 a.m.