Here’s your Day 3 Recap.  The Scrambler wrote it, so you know it will be much more than a few factoids.

Friday was moving day out at Niagara Falls Country Club.  The Scrambler & Mrs. Scrambler made the trek to Lewiston and were rewarded with a very strange and wild day.  Volatility seemed to be the theme, and the stage is now set for a potentially explosive finish.

The Weather

This seemed to set the tone for the unpredictable events of the day.  The skies opened up a little over an hour into play, resulting in a 2 hour delay.  At the resumption of play, the softened course seemed to be susceptible to scoring.  However, offsetting this was the lack of roll on tee shots, making holes like the 477 yard 9th a beast.  At one point, I watched the elite amateurs go 3 for 15 hitting this green in regulation.  The wind would rise up for several holes at a time, immediately adding teeth to NFCC, but would then settle for a stretch, leaving the softened greens open for attack.

The Leaders

The final group of the day had a very real chance to separate from the rest of the field on Friday, but none could mount or sustain any significant movement on a day when the rest of the field was making their moves.

Nate McCoy entered the day at -7 under, just 3 strokes of the lead.  However, the Iowa State Senior’s erratic driving put too much pressure on his game all day, and a 3rd round 75 dropped McCoy 24 spots.

Georgia Tech Alum Paul Haley completed his first two rounds without a bogey for a cumulative total of 130 (10 under), edging out Stanford Freshman Patrick Rodgers by a single stroke.  However, the magic from days 1 /2 seemed to elude the duo on the opening 9 holes Friday.  The pair could only generate 2 birdies between them, and Haley’s “bogey-free” streak ended at 40 holes on the Par-four 5th.

When Rodgers birdied the 6th hole, while Haley accumulated his second straight bogey, the Porter Cup had its first lead change since early Wednesday.  As the pair reached the treacherous 9th, it seemed like Rodgers was ready to separate from his pursuers.  The Stanford Cardinal unleashed one of the bigger drives of the day, a 300 yarder, despite a crosswind and no roll.  At the same time, Haley pushed his drive behind a solitary pine tree, and was forced to pitch out, still behind Rodgers while laying 2.

The next 10 minutes may be the defining moments of the 2011 Porter Cup.

Haley did well to find the green on his 3rd, but still faced a 40 foot par putt.  Rodgers reached the green as well, hoping for another birdie/bogey combination to extend his lead to 3.  However, Haley’s long-range prayer found the cup for an unlikely Par, while Rodgers failed to convert his birdie opportunity.

The surprising turn of events seemed to shake up both competitors.  Haley followed up with birdies on 10 and 11 to push ahead to -11 under.  In contrast, Rodgers bogeyed the 10th and failed to capitalize on the shorter Par 5 11th.  In the 9th fairway, it appeared Rodgers was ready to seize the tournament, but now found himself two strokes back.

At the turn Friday, Haley (-9) and Rodgers (-10) were 3-4 strokes clear of the rest of the field.  From the early scores, it appeared the back 9 was yielding some low scores.  If the pair could get to -12/-13 under, they could have turned Saturday into a head-to-head duel.  However, beyond his initial boost on 10 / 11, Haley could not advance any further, and Rodgers only managed an even par 35 on the inward nine.

At the end of the day, the duo posted identical rounds of 69 – not low enough to render the rest of the field moot.  As you’ll see, their pursuers were using moving day to its fullest.

The Wild Aussies

Fellow Australians Tarquin MacManus and Tim Hart were paired together in the penultimate group Friday, starting at -6 and -5, respectively.  Both experienced volatile rounds on Day Three which challenged the definition of Par as a “normal” score.

MacManus made his presence known first on Friday.  The University of Arizona Senior rolled in a four-footer for Birdie on 2, nearly chipped in for Eagle on 3, and knocked down the flag on 4 to quickly jump from -6 to -9.  MacManus just missed his 4th straight birdie on the 5th, and struck a perfect drive on the 6th to leave a short iron attack.  While the leaders were failing to generate any momentum, it appeared the MacManus was ready to seize the lead.  And then, his fortunes unpredictably reversed.  He over-spun his approach into the 6th, leaving an unrealistic birdie chance.  This missed opportunity was followed by three straight bogeys to close the outward 9, offsetting his three hole surge from 2-4.  The back nine was no less volatile, as MacManus birdied the 10th, but bogeyed the 14th.  He rebounded with an Eagle 2 on the 15th, and a Birdie 2 on the 16th to surge to -3 for the day and within 2 strokes of the lead.  Unfortunately, he concluded with a closing bogey to finish with an unlikely 68 (Eagle / 5 Birdies / 5 Bogeys).  Still, the Southern Amateur runner-up is well within striking distance at -8 under and has certainly demonstrated an ability to string low scores together.

Countryman Tim Hart had plenty of volatility in his round as well. His reversals were more frequent, but much less severe.  Hart opened with a bogey, but recovered that at the Par Five 3rd.  Starting at the 5th, Hart abandoned the Par concept, and finished the front with Bogey/Birdie/Bogey/Birdie/Bogey for an outward score of 36 (+1).  At the turn, Hart was at -4, six strokes out off the leaders.  Fortunately, Tim was able to continue making Birdies on the closing nine, and eliminated the unsightly reversals for an inward score of 31.  The back nine surge moved Hart to -8, only 3 strokes back of the leader.

Big Movers

As the lead group failed to pull away, a window of opportunity was available for those who could take advantage of the soft scoring conditions Friday.  Two Carolinians and a Cardinal did their best to make Saturday a wide-open affair.

South Carolina Senior Wesley Bryan started the day mired in 28th place, but led all scorers with an opening nine 31.  After Birdies on the 10th and 14th, and an Eagle on the 11th, Bryan was -8 under for the day, entertaining thoughts of the magical 59.  Unfortunately, he could not maintain his torrid pace and gave back one stroke on the 17th.  Even with the bogey, Bryan posted a 63 (-7) to surge 25 spots to 3rd place overall (-8).

Virginia Senior Ben Kohles and Stanford Sophomore Cameron Wilson both knew they would need to make a move on Friday to make Saturday a meaningful exercise.  The tandem posted nearly-identical bogey-free rounds of 64 (33/31) to knock 5 strokes off their 8 stroke deficit.

Since his Round 1 double bogey at the 17th, Wilson has been the hottest player in the field, making up 10 strokes to par ever since.  The next hottest since Day 1 has been LSU Alumnus John Peterson.  After an opening 71, Peterson followed with a 65 on Thursday and a 6 Birdie / 2 Bogey offering (66) on Friday.  With their surges, Peterson and Wilson round out the ever-growing list of those at -8.

The final notable round of the day belonged to New Zealand’s Ryan Fox.  Like Wesley Bryan, he reached -8 during his round, before ceding one stroke en route to a 63 (-7).  Unfortunately for Fox, his opening rounds of 72-70 will likely prove to be too much to overcome, as he still faces a 6 stroke deficit.