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January 20, 2024

Nick Dunlap on brink of historic PGA Tour victory

By Gregg Dewalt, Alabama Golf News Editor
Nick Dunlap leaderboard

'It's just kind of go out there and do us'

Nick Dunlap flirted with 59, settled for 60 and is on the brink of becoming the first amateur to win on the PGA Tour since a guy named Phil Mickelson in 1991.

After shooting 64-65 in the first two rounds of the American Express, Dunlap shot an eye-popping 12-under-par 60 in Saturday’s third round on the La Quinta course to open a three-shot lead heading into the final round Sunday.

Looking more like a veteran Tour player than a just-turned 20-year-old, Dunlap, from Huntsville and a sophomore at the University of Alabama, made six birdies on his front nine and got in position to challenge 59, the holy grail of golf scores, with four birdies and an eagle on his back nine.

Nick Dunlap: ‘It was a blast’

Dunlap leads by three over Sam Burns and four over former Crimson Tide standout Justin Thomas, who shot 61 Saturday.

The final round will be played on the Stadium Course at PGA West. Dunlap shot 65 there in the second round, including a 30 on the front nine.

“It was a blast,” Dunlap said. “Honestly, like my caddie Hunter (Hamrick) said it a million times today, there’s no time like the present. I think it’s easy — the putter felt so good. Everything — the hole looked like a funnel. You got a par-5 next hole, I’m going to do this and this. He did a really good job of keeping me settled and keeping me where I was. Ultimately, just kind of kept putting shots together and ended up with a pretty good round.”
Dunlap needed two birdies in the final three holes to shoot 59, but only made one – on his final hole when he nearly stuffed his approach shot.

He admitted that 59 was on his mind late in the round.

“I did,” he said. “On 17, I did. I ran it by, I wasn’t leaving that one short. No — and Hunter mentioned it on 18. He’s like, let’s go ahead and make this.”

Dunlap knows it won’t be easy to close out a historic win. In fact, he’s not even sure what it would mean to win.

“Gosh, I don’t know that I can put it into words,” he said. “I think it’s easy to go there, but I think — I don’t know. It’s going to be hard. It’s going to be something that I haven’t experienced yet, obviously, on the PGA Tour. We’ve got a good game plan for that golf course, and it’s just kind of go out there and do us and stay in the present, like Hunter says, and go from there.”

Gregg Dewalt is the editor of Alabama Golf News

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Featured image courtesy of the PGA Tour

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