Niemann takes 2-shot lead into final round at The Greenbrier

Joaquin Niemann

Joaquin Niemann, of Chile, watches his tee shot on the 12th hole during the third round of A Military Tribute at The Greenbrier golf tournament in White Sulphur Springs, W.Va., Saturday, Sept. 14, 2019. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)

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WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W.Va. (AP) — Joaquin Niemann was an 18-year-old amateur when he arrived in West Virginia two years ago and tied for 29th in the only PGA Tour event he played outside of the U.S. Open.

In 2018, he improved to a tie for fifth at the tournament.

Now he has a chance to become the first player from Chile to win on tour.

Niemann shot a 2-under 68 on Saturday to take a two-stroke lead in A Military Tribute at the Greenbrier.

The 20-year-old Niemann was 15 under with a round left in the season-opening event at the Old White TPC.

“I just feel like I’m almost a member here,” Niemann said. “I just like being out here. Always when you play on a course that you know already it helps a lot.I think this is the course I have played more on tour.”

Niemann had a bogey and three birdies, including a 4-foot putt on the par-5 17th.

“I’m just really happy the way I’ve been playing,” Niemann said. “This course is really good for me.”

No third-round leader has gone on to win the tournament.

Nate Lashley, Richy Werenski and Robby Shelton were tied for second at 13 under. Lashley and Werenski shot 65, and Shelton had a 70.

Adam Long and Scotty Scheffler were 12 under. Long shot 70, and Scheffler had a 71.

Lashley’s story is well known by now. In 2004 his parents and girlfriend were killed in a plane crash in Wyoming. After resuming his career in the PGA Tour’s minor leagues, he won his first tour title at the inaugural Rocket Mortgage Classic in Detroit in June after slipping into the field as an alternate.

“My mentality is I’m definitely a lot more relaxed,” Lashley said. “I’m just playing, just trying to take that as experience, the way I played in Detroit. You know, I really just kind of kept to myself that week and really just focused and tried to block everything else out. I feel like I’ve done a good job of that so far.”

Lashley made bogeys after finding the rough on the par-4 11th and the greenside bunker on the par-3 15th. He chipped in for eagle from 36 feet at No. 17.

His tee shot on the 179-yard 18th came as thunderstorms arrived in the area and play was suspended for about 50 minutes.Upon returning, Lashley three-putted from 70 feet.

Werensky finished No. 126 in the FedEx Cup standings last season, one spot from qualifying for the playoffs. He got his PGA Tour card back for this season in the Korn Ferry Tour Finals.

Werensky said that he didn’t get discouraged after missing the playoffs. Heading into the Korn Ferry Finals, “I had like a, I don’t want to say an epiphany, but just like, ‘Hey, man just chill out. Relax. I know I’m good enough.”

Shelton was tied for the lead with Niemann and Scheffler after the second round. Shelton was 2 over for the day until making birdies at the par-5 12th and par-4 14th.

He hopes to use his two wins on the Korn Ferry Tour last season to help stay calm Sunday.

“You got to be super patient,” he said. “I mean, it’s hard to do, but hopefully I can manage my nerves tomorrow.”

Kevin Chappell couldn’t capitalize on the 11-under 59 he shot Friday, the 11th sub-60 round in tour history. He had a 73 on Saturday and was eight strokes behind Niemann.

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