By Christopher Powers
Prior to this week, Tyler Duncan had one PGA Tour start to his name, a missed cut at the 2015 U.S. Open at Chambers Bay, where he posted a 36-hole total of 10-over 150. More than two years later, in just his second PGA Tour start, the rookie has carded rounds of 65, 66 and Saturday’s one-under 71 that has given him a one-shot lead at 14-under 202 through 54 holes at the Safeway Open in Napa, Calif.
Duncan, 28, is fresh off a 2017 season on the Web.com Tour that saw him finish inside the top six four times. After struggling on the front nine of Silverado Resort and Spa’s North Course, going out in one-over 37, Duncan made three birdies and a bogey on the home nine to come in with a two-under 34. Another solid round Sunday could make it a life-changing week for Duncan, and if his putter continues to cooperate, he just might deliver. The Purdue alum ranks first in the field in strokes gained: putting through three rounds.
Chesson Hadley is one off the lead at 13-under 203 after following his career-low course record 61 with a two-under 70. A win on Sunday would be the second of his career, the first coming at the 2014 Puerto Rico Open.
One of the low rounds of the day belonged to Bud Cauley, who shot a bogey-free six-under 66 that vaulted him 12 spots up the leader board. It’s his third appearance in the Safeway Open, and any finish inside the top 50 would be his best. He’s at 12-under 204, two shots behind Duncan.
Defending champion Brendan Steele is also at 12-under after carding an even par 72.
Three back at 11-under 205 are Emiliano Grillo and Graham DeLaet. Grillo’s lone PGA Tour victory came in the Safeway Open in 2015, the first year the event (formerly theOpen) moved to Silverado Resort and Spa. His four-under 68 on Saturday has him in good position to earn a second victory in just thre appearances at the Safeway.
DeLaet, 35, posted a three-under 69 with four birdies and a bogey. The Canadian has now posted three consecutive sub-70 rounds in the same event, something he hasn’t done since last April’s RBC Heritage, where he tied for sixth. It’s his fourth start in the Safeway Open, and he’s yet to finish any higher than T-32. DeLaet is still in search of his first PGA Tour victory.
Phil Mickelson is just four shots off the lead at 10-under 206 after carding his low round of the week, a four-under 68 that featured seven birdies and three bogeys. After struggling in July and August, Mickelson has found his game this fall, posting sub-70 scores in 10 of his last 11 rounds. His 18 birdie total is tied for second in the field, and he ranks solo second in strokes gained: approach the green.
Tied for seventh with Mickelson at 10 under are Bill Haas, Tony Finau and Andrew Putnam.