San Juan Open intensifying entering final round

Calum Hill, Sam Saunders battling for title

Matt Hollinshead,
Sam Saunders, who plays in the professional group, hits a chip shot from the fringe on the sixth green during the third round of the San Juan Open Saturday at San Juan Country Club in Farmington.

FARMINGTON — The competition among those atop the San Juan Open’s professional leader board is intensifying.

Calum Hill (196) and Sam Saunders (197) sit atop the pack at first and second, respectively. Hill and Saunders have a solid lead over Justin Keiley and Derek Tolan, currently tied for third place at 203. Sitting in at fifth place at 204, Justin Bardgett is nipping at the heels of Keiley and Tolan.

And now that Sunday’s final round is here, that key hole or two can alter one's fortunes.

"Coming down the stretch, if you play well, you can jump from seventh to third. And if you play bad, you can jump from third to seventh," Tolan said. "All the really good players that I figured would be in the hunt are in the hunt. That's what makes it interesting." 

Saunders said it's currently a "two-dog race" between himself and Hill, but he isn't taking the scoring gap for granted.

"There's a bunch of guys right there that are good players. It'll be competitive," Saunders said.

Every chip shot matters. Every putt for birdie matters. Every botched putt matters.

And the top names on the leader board keep fluctuating.

Calum Hill, who plays in the professional group, sinks his putt on the sixth green during the third round of the San Juan Open Saturday at San Juan Country Club in Farmington.

For instance, Saunders had a two-stroke lead on Hill entering today’s third round. But Hill now leads Saunders by one stroke.

"I'm going to have to play great (on Sunday). I don't see Calum shooting much over par," Saunders said.

Tolan was in a four-way tie for sixth entering the third round, while Keiley was tied for 11th entering today. Now the pair is neck-in-neck at third place going into the most important day of the tournament.

"Typically, no one's running away from it. Everyone's always within a couple points of one another," Tolan said.

Players are aware things can change for the better or worse on Sunday, just like that.

"I think there's going to be some mistakes because it's going to be windy and difficult. You've just got to hang in there," Saunders said.

Matt Hollinshead covers sports for the Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4577.