It's make-or-break time for top of the pack

Matt Hollinshead,

FARMINGTON – It’s make-or-break time at the San Juan Open.

Five golfers sat atop the leaderboard within four strokes of each other entering today, well aware that every shot matters nearing the final stretch.

“It’s going to be tight competition,” said Steven Kupcho, who was tied for third place entering today’s third round. “If anything, I thought maybe there’d be a tie for the lead going into the weekend.”

Jesse Mueller entered today in first place shooting a combined score of 131, but Hans Reimers (133), Austin Quick (134), Kupcho (134) and Glenn Workman (135) are within striking distance, and alive and well in the title hunt.

“I’m just trying to make the best score on every hole that I can. When you’re up near the leaderboard, every shot is very important,” Mueller said. “It’s hard to separate yourself from fields that are quality like this.”

It’s now reached a point where it’s just as easy to get knocked down the standings as it is to pull ahead.

One rough spot on the greens of San Juan Country Club can be costly, particularly with rugged slopes featured on holes five through nine. Thriving on that stretch, however, can be a critical way to make up ground when trailing.

“You’ve got to be patient. You’re going to have some weird stuff happen where you chip one off the green or you putt it and it runs way by the hole,” Kupcho said. “The key to this weekend is not letting the bad shots or the bad breaks affect you.”

Jesse Mueller places his golf ball, Friday, June 21, 2019, during the second day of the San Juan Open.

Kupcho said the top-five players are hitting birdies when they’re supposed to. Kupcho also said one can climb up and/or stay at the top if they continue to grab multiple birdies and limit bogeys from now on.

Mueller said putting strong helped him rise to the top during the first two days of action, but he understands that it’s far from over.

One’s struggles on a hole can bust the door open for another.

“There’s a ton of good players that have a chance. It’s fun to be in competition and play against a solid field. We’re all trying to win the tournament,” Mueller said. “I can’t get ahead of myself.”

Matt Hollinshead covers sports for the Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4577 or on Twitter at @MattH_717.