NAPA, Calif. – So how was the start of your Saturday?
Andrew Loupe’s was pretty good.
The former LSU Tiger birdied the first five holes he played at Silverado Resort and shot up the leaderboard in the Frys.Com Open, the 2015-16 wraparound season opener for the PGA Tour. Although he made bogey on the sixth hole, Loupe, 26, came home with five more birdies – which included a stretch of four straight starting on the 14th – and shot a 9-under-par 63 in the third round, tying the tournament course record.
Through 54 holes, Loupe is at 13 under and trails leader Brendan Steele by one shot. World No. 3 Rory McIlroy is in a tie for 39th at 6 under.
Three weeks ago Loupe didn’t have his PGA Tour card. On Sunday, he’ll be in the final group looking for his first Tour title after rounds of 68-72-63.
At Frys.Com Open, Rory McIlroy still trying to get putter going.
“Had a few of them drop,” Loupe said. “Just all around good day. Kept the ball in front of me in the fairway for the most part.
Thought I did a pretty good job on the par-3s. Just getting off to a start like that, haven’t gotten off to a start like that in a while. It was fun to just run out there a little bit.
” … I really want to make a 4 on 18. I knew that that would be the course record. Never shot 62 before in competition. But it was a fabulous day.”.
So was his Sunday last month in Columbus, Ohio, at the Ohio State University Golf Club. Loupe earned his Tour card that day with his 2-shot victory in the Nationwide Children’s Hospital Championship, the third event of the Web.Com Tour Finals, closing out his victory with solid play down the stretch.
“That was huge,” said Loupe, who played 22 Tour events in 2014 and 15 in 2015. “I just think that I really needed to close one out just to have that confidence the next time around on this level, just to know that I have it in me and have a little validation.
” … I just think overall I feel like I’m more ready (this season). I needed to get a win in those Finals. I just think that just overall I’m a little sharper mentally, a little bit more experienced. Along with that I think the aspects of my game are just solid right now.”.
Justin Thomas overshadowed at Frys.Com Open by NBA MVP Stephen Curry.
Loupe is a part of a bunched leaderboard, where there are 16 players within four shots of the lead. He’ll grab the lead on the final day, however, if he duplicates the start of his third round, where he ran in putts of 14, 6, 18, 9 and 4 feet. His last five birdies came from 6, 2, 11, 6 and 8 feet.
“Just keep the pedal to the metal. That’s all I was trying to do,” Loupe said. “Everything just kind of felt a little bit locked in in my warmup. … Haven’t gotten off to a start like that in a while. Thought we did a pretty good job of keeping it relatively loose. Was just able to keep it going and finish well.”.
Loupe expects he’ll sleep just fine Saturday night, the pressure of going after his first Tour title not forcing him to pace back and forth in the dark. Nor will he be thinking about the Masters invitation he would receive if he were to win.
His mindset, he said, will be quite simple.
“Just got to go get ’em. Get after it again,” he said. “You can make birdies out here, but if you’re a shade off you can make bogeys easily. Just got to keep the pedal down, keep it free, and keep it going.”.