Axley opens four-shot cushion in Texas Open
SAN ANTONIO — Eric Axley turned pro nine years ago, but he doesn't have to think that far back to find the best golf of his career.
This is it.
Axley shot his second straight 7-under 63 yesterday in the Texas Open, birdieing the final three holes to take a four-shot lead into the final round. Only Corey Pavin's 64-61 in Milwaukee are lower consecutive rounds on the PGA Tour this year.
Axley punctuated the round by driving the par-4 16th hole with a 352-yard blast from the tee. When he walked off the 18th green at the Resort Course at LaCantera Golf Club, he knew it was the best he has played.
"Obviously, yeah. I'm just not making mistakes," Axley said. "I'm just playing stress free out there."
Axley, a 32-year-old left-hander with a half backswing pre-shot routine that's similar to the left-handed Mike Weir, was at 16-under 194 through 54 holes.
Axley, from Knoxville, Tenn., is pursuing his first PGA Tour victory. He won once on the Nationwide Tour, but his best finishes in two seasons on the PGA Tour are a pair of 24th-place ties.
Another bogey-free round might do it. Axley has gone 40 holes without a bogey. He started the tournament Thursday with bogeys on three of his first 14 holes.
He leads a group of three players including 2005 Byron Nelson Championship winner Ted Purdy, who shot a 64 yesterday. The others at 12 under are Frank Lickliter II (65) and 2004 Ryder Cup participant Chris Riley (64).
But anyone could go lower today. Robert Gamez won the tournament last year with an opening-round 62. Bart Bryant won two years ago with a third-round 60.
"It's hard to sleep on the lead," Purdy said, "especially on a golf course where a lot of birdies can be made and there are lots of guys four or five shots from the lead."
Hawai'i's Dean Wilson was five shots back at 199 after a 66.
First-round co-leader Justin Rose was tied for sixth. After a 1-over 71 in the second round dropped him to four shots behind Axley and second-round co-leader D.A. Points, Rose had consecutive birdies on Nos. 4-5 and 14-16 for a 65 yesterday and a three-round total of 10-under 200. He shared sixth with Charley Hoffman.
WEBB LEADS BY FIVE IN LONGS DRUG CHALLENGE
Karrie Webb took full control in the Longs Drugs Challenge yesterday, taming the hilly Blackhawk Country Club course in Danville, Calif., with a bogey-free 6-under 66 that pushed her lead to five strokes after three rounds.
Webb birdied the final three holes on the Lakeside course to finish at 13-under 203 and send a message to her LPGA Tour rivals that the seven-time major champion from Australia is back at the top of her game.
"I just felt very at ease with my golf swing," said Webb, tied for the tour victory lead this season with three.
If the wind stays down on the hill-lined course, more low scores could come.
"If you have no wind, someone could shoot really low. So, I think I still have to go out there and play the way I've played this week and be aggressive on the holes that you can," Webb said.
Webb's finish really distanced her from the field.
On the par-3 16th, she made a a 25-foot putt. Her sand wedge on No. 17 stopped 5 feet from the hole and another wedge on No. 18 stuck within 10 feet — both opportunities she seized.
Webb finished at 13-under 203, five strokes ahead of 18-year-old Morgan Pressel (69) and Sweden's Maria Hjorth (70).
Webb began the day tied for the lead with Jeong Jang at 7 under. But as Jang sputtered, Webb's clean approach shots and steady putting kept her out of trouble.
Jang shot a 74 to drop eight strokes back at 5 under.
Annika Sorenstam, the tour's gold standard, would have put more heat on Webb heading into the final round had it not been for a double-bogey at No. 5, a short par-5. Still, Sorenstam had five birdies for a 69 that left her somewhat in the hunt at 209.