Valdosta Daily Times

April 28, 2013

Wilcox fires course-record 63, leads by 7

Ed Hooper
The Valdosta Daily Times

VALDOSTA — Will Wilcox made it look easy on a day when much of the field struggled. He laughed with the crowd, popped his collar, had fun and posted one of the greatest rounds in Tour history.

Wilcox fired a 9-under 63 in his third round of the South Georgia Classic Saturday, with his only hiccup coming on the 18th green when he pushed a par putt past the hole.

That didn’t matter much, though, as Wilcox was still able to set a new course-record Saturday. He will take a 7-shot lead into today’s final round.

“It was a nice day,” Wilcox said. “I guess I got a little nervous on the 18th tee and hit it into the bunker. But I played really good….I just hit it nice, putted good. I just made good birdies on holes I needed to.”

While Wilcox made it look easy, the rest of the field struggled. The average score Saturday came in over par, with only 25 of the 65 golfers that made the cut shooting below par in Saturday’s round.

If it weren’t for his bogey putt on No. 18, Wilcox’s round would have been even more impressive. With a would-be par on his final hole, Wilcox would have tied the Tour’s record for the largest 54-hole lead and would have set the greatest differential between the lowest individual score and the second-lowest individual score in the same round.

But Wilcox did bogey No. 18, turning in a 9-under, after starting the day tied for second. The next closest lowest round Saturday was by18-hole leader Ryan Spears, who turned in a 4-under 68 Saturday.

“I did zero scoreboard watching until I came up to 17, because I had made birdie on five of my last seven holes,” Spears said. “With the round (Wilcox) has got, you have to make every opportunity count and I think the four shots I blew on the front nine, if you turn those around I could very easily be right in the same position. You just have to put the ball in play and be in the right positions.”

As for how Wilcox responded when he found out that he had beat the rest of the field by over five strokes on a weekend round? He was shocked.

“Wow,” he said. “That is ridiculous. I wish I had birdied (No.) 18.”

The 7-shot lead is easily the largest lead going into the final round in South Georgia Classic history. The largest prior to this year was in 2008, Bryan DeCorso held the outright lead by only 1-stroke.

Trailing Wilcox is Ryan Spears (68) and D.J. Brigman (70), both of whom are tied at 9-under par. Hudson Swafford (72), the 36-hole leader, is tied for fifth at 8-under par with Andrew Loupe (71) and Michael Putnam (70).

Wilcox’s round got started on the right note, when he sank a 30-foot putt on the par-4 first. His round continued when he made birdie on Nos. 2, 4 and 6, moving him to 4-under for the tournament.

Then, sitting in the middle of the fairway on the par-4 12th, Wilcox’s day got even better when his approach shot from 193 yards out dropped into the hole for an eagle.

“When the 7-iron went in from 193 on 12, we didn’t even know what to say,” Wilcox said. “And then I made a birdie on the next hole. I made a birdie on the par 3 over the ravine, I was thinking, ‘What is going on?’ The hole-out, that is the longest hole I have ever holed-out….That is just crazy.”

Following his eagle, Wilcox made birdie on Nos. 13, 14 and 16, before his bogey on No. 18. He ended his round by hitting nine fairways, 15 greens and needing just 25 putts.

“It is great,” he said. “It is more than I could have expected.”

When asked about his sudden resurgence, Wilcox, who entered the weekend ranked 55th on the Tour’s money list, said he owes his success this weekend to the life changes he made Jan. 1, when he moved to the Caribbean.

“I have made a lot of big life changes in the last four to five months that have allowed me to be more relaxed than I used to be,” said Wilcox, who hasn’t won a tournament since 2011 when he was a member of the Hooters Tour. “I am living right and it is a lot easier to play well when you know you’re doing the right things and treating people like you should. It all trickles down from my diet to the way I treat people.”

Wilcox played Saturday’s round in front of his former Clayton State athletic director, Mason Barfield, who now holds a position within the Valdosta State athletic department.

“It is great because last year I acted like a 2-year-old when (Barfield) showed up,” Wilcox said. “So I was really happy to see him and that he is not giving up on me. He saw my ups and downs, so it is awesome.”

As for his plans for today’s final round and how he plans on holding on to that 7-stoke lead, Wilcox said he plans on keeping everything in front of him and taking it one hole at a time.

“I have never been in this situation, so I will just do my best,” Wilcox said. “Whatever happens, happens. I know I have had a nice week and I am making big strides in the right direction. I don’t really care if I win or not. I mean my game has improved so much, I know it is going to happen eventually. Whatever happens (today) happens. I am not concerned.”