Rob Oppenheim and Austin Eckroat share 54-hole lead in Memorial Health Championship presented by LRS

SPRINGFIELD, Illinois – Through 54 holes, two players are tied atop the leaderboard at the Health Memorial Championship presented by LRS, as Rob Oppenheim and Austin Eckroat enter Sunday’s final round as the co-leaders at 21 down. Eckroat started the day with the outright lead through 54 holes and shot a 7-under 64 on Saturday, while Oppenheim recorded an 11-under 60 to set a new career low round and tie the Panther Creek course record Country Club. The co-leaders sit one shot ahead of a trio of 20-year-old players – Paul Haley II, Augusto Nunez and Patrick Newcomb.

Oppenheim entered the day T6 and opened with a bogey on the par-4 first hole, but was able to post birdies on Nos. 3, 6 and 7. After making the turn at 2-under, the 42-year-old caught fire on the side of back, shooting a 9-under 27 over the final nine holes. Oppenheim needed just three shots on each hole of the back nine, a stretch that included five par-4s, two par-5s and two par-3s. He posted the first 27 on every nine in a Korn Ferry Tour event since Alex Prugh at the 2018 Ellie Mae Classic at TPC Stonebrae.

“In competition, I’d go as far as to say it’s the best nine holes I’ve ever played, for sure,” Oppenheim said after his third round. “I realized after I made an eagle on 16 that I made all three. Then I had a par-3, and actually probably my best par of the day was on 17. I hit it really well, hit a good flop shot to about 10 feet, made it par. Then 18, walking down the middle of the fairway with my caddy like, “Hey, we’ve got eight in a row, let’s try to get nine.” I think that almost helped me keep that motivation, keep the pedal down, and I was able to make a putt.”

Oppenheim’s third-round 60 tied the course record previously set last year by Taylor Moore, who went on to win the event and eventually earn his first PGA TOUR card by finishing 6th in points of the regular season Korn Ferry Tour List. In addition, Oppenheim topped his career-low round of 61, which he had posted twice before, most recently in the third round of the 2019 Albertsons Boise Open presented by Chevron.

“You don’t get very often these days where the hole looks big,” Oppenheim said. “I got some good breaks and took advantage of them, made some shots and hit some good shots. The conditions were perfect for scoring. Everything lined up and it was nice to take advantage of that.”

For Oppenheim, who is making his 224th start on the Korn Ferry Tour this week in Springfield, Illinois, it marks the second time in his career that he has held at least a share of the lead going into the final round. He also was a co-leader at the 2017 Utah Championship presented by Zions Bank, but finished T2 after a 2-under during the final round.

Oppenheim has played in all but one event this season, recording six top-25s, including three top-10 finishes, in 18 starts. It entered the week ranked no. 36 on the points list, and with a win this week, he would surpass the 875-point threshold that the Korn Ferry Tour currently uses as its safe threshold for players to finish within 25 and earn a PGA TOUR card at the end of regular season.

“There’s still a day,” Oppenheim reminded the media after his impressive third round. “It was a great day, but I know I have to play really well tomorrow. That’s the most important thing is to finish well tomorrow.”

The average score in the third round was 67.35, with players averaging 3.65 under par. Three players in the field shot rounds of 10-under or better – Oppenheim, along with Haley II and Nunez, who carded 10-under 61s. Eckroat, who was playing in the final group after opening rounds of 65 and career-low 63, carded a 7-under 64 on Saturday but was surprised to find himself tied for the top of the leaderboard entering Sunday’s final round.

“I mean, if people had told me I was going to shoot a 7-hole today and be tied for the lead instead of having the individual lead, I wouldn’t have believed you,” Eckroat said. who was the outright 36-hole leader. “It was crazy, the goal today was unbelievable.”

Similar to Oppenheim, Eckroat’s day was a tale of two nines. The 23-year-old native of Edmond, Oklahoma had a bogey-free round but lost the afternoon lead after posting pars on each of the first nine holes. He turned it on in a hurry after the turn by carding six consecutive birdies on Nos. 10-15, before adding his seventh and final birdie of the day on the par-3 17th.

“I really wasn’t playing well on the front nine, my short game was getting away from me,” Eckroat said. “Then on the back nine, something clicked. He started hitting her close. I was setting it up well because I was making the first few shots and then I just started giving myself bird shots and they started going in. I thought I was going to do it all, but seven out of the back nine is a lot.”

It marked Eckroat’s 27th consecutive round of par-or-better dating back to the NV5 Invitational presented by Old National Bank in May. Despite having six top-25 finishes in his last seven starts, Eckroat began the season with conditional status and appeared in just two of the first 12 events. Now sitting as the co-leader entering the final round, he took a moment on Saturday to recap his season to this point.

“It feels like a year ago. It seems like a different life,” Eckroat said of his season opener. “Yeah, like you said, going back to Q-School, I was in a really bad place, status-wise. I have a good opportunity to jump in front of this now.

“I haven’t raced as a pro yet, it will be fun. Happy with the way I recovered today, I was nervous at the start and hopefully that will carry over into tomorrow.”

The final round group times will run from 8:00 am to 10:10 am local time, excluding the first and 10th matches.

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