Stadler holds lead into final round |

Stadler holds lead into final round

Ryan Slabaugh

Stadler birdied four of the first eight holes Saturday at the Sonnenalp Golf Club, extending his lead to five over Buy.Com tour player Scott Petersen, before three-putting the 16th hole and watching his lead diminish to two. Stadler played the last 10 holes in 1-over-par, a rarity this week for a guy who fired rounds in the 60s Friday and Saturday.

“It was pretty ugly,” Stadler said, whose 70 Saturday put him at 10-under for the tournament. “The front was fine, but I didn’t play well on the back.”

Petersen, of Parker, admits he’s lucky to be so close. On the first hole, the 2000 Open champion’s tee shot went left out of bounds, down the road, and rolled back inbounds. Instead of playing for bogey, he had a 140 yards to the pin.

He birdied the hole, one of five on the day, and used a 30-foot snaking putt on No. 12 to go from a distant second to charging horse.

“The way (Stadler) was playing, I just wanted to cut it in half,” said Petersen, at 8-under. “Anything can happen tomorrow. I’m playing well, he’s playing well.”

Four strokes off the lead stands Brian Kortan of Albuquerque, N.M. Kortan fired his third-straight 69 and stands on the border of contention at 6-under.

“Four (strokes) is about two bad swings,” Kortan said. “Kevin knows that. It’s his first pro event, yeah, but he has as much experience as anyone out here.”

Stadler, who turned pro right before this tournament, lost in the quarterfinals of the U.S. Amateur a few weeks ago after four years of playing at the University of Southern California. Mix that with the fact that his father, PGA professional Craig Stadler, is his caddy, and experience might be in his favor.

“It’s not like it’s his first rodeo, you know,” Kortan said.

It was Stadler’s putter that failed him Saturday, evidenced by two three-putts – the only strokes he gave back all day. He birdied No. 1, No. 4, No. 6 and No. 8 to give him the cushion he ended up needing. With 18 holes to play, he sounds like he’s done this before.

“I really don’t want to think about it,” Stadler said. “I don’t want to bring attention to it. I just want to go out and play tomorrow.”

Behind the first group on the tee today will be a 32-year-old Texan who drove 1,400 miles Wednesday without a spot in the tournament. Austin’s John Sosa qualified as the 12th alternate and figured he had to get back to Sonnenalp, where he played well 16 years ago as an amateur. Since then, he has played at the University of Texas and took 10 years off to raise his family.

He quickly became one of the best stories at this year’s $125,000 Open.

“For some reason, I felt I needed to be here,” said Sosa, whose 67 Saturday put him at 4-under for the tournament. “I drove 1,400 miles to take a chance.”

Sosa showed up Wednesday, drove around the course, and arrived Thursday morning at Sonnenalp waiting for a spot. At noon, he was informed Dave Alvarez of Glenwood Springs had withdrawn. He had 20 minutes to prepare.

“I hit it right down the middle,” he said of his first tee shot.

The tournament continues today. The leaders will be teeing off in the late morning.

NOTES: Larry Collins, who was in second place going into Saturday, struggled and shot a 77 to put him out of contention… Two locals are locked at 218. Edwards’ Mitch Perry shot a 70 Saturday and is tied with Red Sky Ranch pro Jeff Hanson, who shot a 72… 16-year-old Derek Tolan of Highlands Ranch, the youngest qualifier at this year’s U.S. Open, is also at 218… Leading amateur is Denver’s Jon Lindstrom, who shot a 69 Saturday. He holds a three-stroke lead over Longmont’s Jeffrey Hanson, who shot a 68.

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