28 Jun 2020 | Professional golf |
Ruffels in Utah birdie blitz
by Martin Blake
An astonishing seven-birdie start in a round of 63 has set up Ryan Ruffels with the chance of his first professional win in the Korn Ferry Tour’s Utah Championship.
Ruffels was on 59 watch after he rolled in birdies at all of the opening seven holes, then after a bogey at the eighth, another birdie at the ninth at the Oakridge Country Club just north of Salt Lake City today.
He turned in 29 but a string of pars from the 10th to the 14th put paid to any chance of a sub-60 score. In fact his only other birdie of the day came at the par-five 15th hole, and he was forced into a gripping par-save at the par-four 16th, where he found trouble off the tee.
Still, the Victorian 22-year-old was eight-under for the day and vaulted into a tie for third at 16-under par, just a shot back from the lead shared by Americans Paul Haley and Kyle Jones.
His seven birdies to start a round equalled the Korn Ferry Tour record set in 2017.
Ruffels has not won as a professional and lost his game in 2018, soon after turning professional and moving to America at just 17. He spent several years out on the PGA Latino Tour before graduating to the Korn Ferry at the end of last year only to see the Covid-19 pandemic shut down professional golf.
As it is, Korn Ferry graduates will not progress to the main tour no matter what happens this year.
Ruffels may well have been inspired by the deeds of his younger sister, Gabriela, who won a professional event on the Cactus Tour in Nevada last week. She is the reigning US Amateur champion and will defend her title soon.
Meanwhile on the PGA Tour, Jason Day played his third round of the Travelers Championship alone after requesting a Covid-19 test before play.
The tour shifted Day out of his playing group while they awaited the result of the test, which came back negative despite the Australian suffering some symptoms that bothered him. The tour put out a statement later indicating that the protocols would change from next week; players who are awaiting the result of a Covid test will not be allowed on to the course.
Day shot his third round in the 60s as his return to form continues, but at five-under he is well back from Brendon Todd’s lead. Marc Leishman fell back on the third day with a 72 and is out of contention.
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