GRAND BLANC, Mich. (AP) – Tom Pernice Jr. was having a mediocre round until surprising himself with a spectacular stretch that pushed his name atop a shuffled leaderboard.
Pernice had an eagle and four birdies during a five-hole run and his 66 Saturday gave him the third-round lead at the topsy-turvy Buick Open.
“The way I was going along, I never dreamed I would get to 6 under,” he said. “Being patient pays off sometimes.”
Jesper Parnevik (64), Scott Verplank (69) and Brian Bateman (69) were a shot back entering the final round.
Former Buick Open champions Jim Furyk (71), Kenny Perry (71) and Woody Austin (69) were in a group of five players two strokes behind the leader. Pernice and Verplank have also won at Warwick Hills, where a $882,000 check is truly up for grabs without regulars Tiger Woods and Vijay Singh around to dominate.
Woods (with his wife and baby) and Singh (resting a sore elbow) are not playing the Buick Open for the first time since 2001 after combining to win four of the previous five.
After playing the first 12 holes even par, Pernice eagled No. 13 then ripped off four straight birdies.
before finishing with a par.
Parnevik made the big move Saturday, going from a tie for 46th into a tie for second with an 8 under. He had the best round – by two strokes – as Warwick Hills became tougher with firm greens.
The Swede is playing in his first Buick Open, instead of returning to Europe as he usually does after the U.S. Open.
“I decided to stay this year, which I’m very happy about,” he said.
Parnevik, who usually doesn’t return to the U.S. until the PGA Championship, will play at Oakland Hills in suburban Detroit on Monday in a British Open qualifier.
Pernice and Parnevik will be paired together, hoping to continue a trend.
The Buick Open winner has emerged from the final group since 1999 and the third-round leader has held on in each of the last six.
Pernice took advantage of the last leader who couldn’t hold onto the lead on a Sunday at Warwick Hills.
Pernice won his first of two PGA tour events here eight years ago, when he began the final round five shots behind Tom Lehman and beat him and two others by a stroke.
“I didn’t really necessarily have many thoughts about winning when I teed off that day,” Pernice said. “Really, Tom Lehman let us all back into the game.”
While players such as Pernice and Parnevik joined the leaders, Brett Quigley plummeted a day after firing his caddie.
“It was just time,” Quigley said of his mid-tournament decision.
Quigley’s 3-over 75 dropped him into a tie for 32nd at 7 under after starting the day tied with Furyk and Perry.
His play might’ve rubbed off on his playing partner, Furyk, who bogeyed two straight holes on the front nine by pulling a 4-footer and lipping out from 9 feet.
Furyk missed a 4-footer at 18 to bogey, finishing at 1 under for the day. His streak of rounds in the 60s at the Buick Open ended at eight, equaling Woods’ tournament record, but he extended his run of sub-par rounds to 36 at Warwick Hills.
“It was a terrible round, 1 under isn’t getting the job done here,” Furyk said. “I’m very fortunate to only be two back.”
Quigley’s collapse began right away.
He bogeyed the first three holes and four of five. At No. 9, his drive went behind trees and his third shot plugged in a bunker, setting up a double bogey. He made the turn at 5 over for the day and seven shots behind the leaders.
“After the three bogeys, I knew I had to press,” he said. “I’m not entirely discouraged, though, because after a disastrous front nine, I was able to play really well on the back. Obviously, I’m going to need 9 or 10 under tomorrow, but at least I have some hope.”
Quigley, who hasn’t won on the PGA Tour, had the second-round lead last year at the Buick Open before a third-round 71 contributed to him finishing tied for seventh.