Schnell leads Rex Hospital Open heading into final round

Peter Koutroumpis, Triangle Sports Network
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RALEIGH, N.C. – Brady Schnell took sole possession of the top spot on the leaderboard following the third round of play at the 2016 Rex Hospital Open.

That’s where he’ll start the final round of play along with Dominic Bozzelli when the two tee off in the final pairing at 1 p.m. on Sunday.

Leaderboard: Round 3

Starting the day with 36-hole co-leader J.J. Spaun on Saturday, Schnell managed to best his pairing partner by a stroke while taking the right lines on the layout at TPC Wakefield Plantation to post his four-under 67.

“The birdies have been there this year,” Schnell said.

“It’s just been too many bogeys, so I’m really tryin’ to figure that out, and takin’ some different lines into the greens. I’m just happy to see that strategy pay off this week.”

It’s the first time this season that Schnell will begin the fourthl round in the final group after making only two cuts in seven starts.

Bozzelli’s matching 67 pulled him into a tie with Spaun, and earned him the opportunity to tee off in the final pairing with Schnell.

“There were some good shots, some bad shots,” Bozzelli said of his third-round play.

“it really has been a little bit of everything this week. For the most part I’ve been able to limit my bad tee shots to bogeys. My bounce backs have been pretty good this week. It’s kept me in it. I’ve been makin’ a lot of putts this week, so it’s kind of the great equalizer.”

This is Bozzelli’s fourth start at TPC, and he likes playing the layout.

“There’s definitely a level of comfort,” he said.

“I know where to be, where to miss it, and I’ve seen all the pins by now too. I feel good out there. Going into the day I knew there were some good pins – definitely some accessible pins out there where you can make some birdies. The only thing that made it tough today was the wind which was swirling around. I was tough to tell what it was doing at times.”

Playing with Schnell, Spaun struggled to put his ball in position early on, but managed to scramble exceptionally well from the green-side rough and bunkers on holes No. 2 and No. 3.

The highlight of his round was a 50-foot eagle putt on the par-5, 587-yard fourth that kept him close to Schnell early on.

“My pace was a little off with the speed of the greens,” Spaun said.

“The pins are in such subtle spots. From above the hole it looks normal, flat and slightly downhill, and behind the hole it’s straight downhill. It seemed today that a lot of pins were on the slope and if you got it going past the hole, it would keep on going. They were so fast.”

With all three players in contention to win their first Tour event of the season, their strategy to earn it will be similar, but naturally with individual subtleties.

“I can’t really what other guys are doing and what is going on around you,” Bozzelli concluded.

“You can’t play defense in golf unfortunately. Keep plodding along and see where you are on the back nine.”

Spaun will draw upon previous experience from winning on PGA Tour Canada’s MacKenzie Tour last season.

“I’m definitely going to be reflecting on those rounds going into tomorrow and replicate pretty much the mindset that I had going into those days.,” Spaun said.

“Hopefully, I’ll be successful.”

Schnell simply looked forward to a repeat of Saturday.

“I had a very nice sense of calm today,” he said.

“I hope I wake up tomorrow and feel that way as well. It’s staying to yourself and not worrying about leaderboards or anything. My mental game is good, I’m taking good lines. It’s just somethin’ I gotta go do tomorrow and I should be right there at the end. I feel really good about where I’m at.”