Wesley Bryan’s exit out of the scoring tent Saturday was met by a group of children, clamoring for any autographed merchandise they could get their hands on.
Bryan, the Web.com Tour’s money leader, happily obliged, handing out a handful of signed balls and a couple of gloves. He was in a good mood, and it was no surprise.
He leads through three rounds at the Digital Ally Open at Nicklaus Golf Club at LionsGate after shooting a 6-under 65 and finishing with an overall score of 16-under 197. Bryan has a 1-stroke lead over Grayson Murray, who shot a 64, and JT Poston, who had a 65.
If Bryan wins Sunday, he will punch his ticket to the PGA Tour. He already has two wins on the Web.com Tour, and a third means an automatic promotion to golf’s top level. The top 25 in the Web.com money standings at the end of the season also get a card for the PGA Tour next season.
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Although Bryan has played in two tournaments on the PGA Tour this season, he is careful to not get ahead of himself.
“You just want the chance to win (Sunday),” Bryan said. “Hopefully, I can get off to a good start and have a chance to win another golf tournament. It doesn’t really matter if it’s here or at the PGA Tour. I’m just trying to get into contention.”
Bryan’s start to the third round didn’t reflect his final score.
On the first hole, a par-4, he drove the ball into the rough just over the water hazard. His next shot found the bunker.
Bryan finished the hole with a bogey, a good outcome considering his initial 2 shots.
“(Hole No. 1) is the hardest hole on the golf course,” Bryan said. “It’s going to surrender a lot of bogeys. I just knew that I couldn’t press and bogey some easier holes. They’re going to happen. I think I think responded well.”
His response consisted of seven birdies. His third-round score was just 1 stroke off the best score of the day.
Bryan’s good performance has been a few weeks in the making.
After winning a tournament in both March and April, his performance waned. On July 10, he didn’t make the cut at the LECOM Health Challenge. Although he placed second at the Lincoln Land Charity Championship the next week, Bryan felt like he needed a break.
Since the Web.com Tour had two straight tournaments on the West Coast, Bryan, a South Carolina native, stayed at home and practiced.
“I needed some time off,” Bryan said. “I play year-round and it’s a grind. The break was good for me.”
But he didn’t just sit around for those two weeks. He practiced at Augusta National Golf Club, site of the Masters and only about an hour’s drive from Bryan’s hometown.
The break and practice seem to have worked, as Bryan is turning in one of his best performances of the season.
Now all he has to do is finish.
If he does win today, Bryan said he will compete in the last few Web.com tournaments of the season in an attempt to lock down the No. 1 money ranking. That would give him a PGA Tour spot for a full season.
“I also wouldn’t feel great taking a spot from someone who is on the bubble trying to play for his career out there,” he said.
Just a year ago, Bryan was lumbering through trying to get a chance to play on the PGA Tour. Now he is one good round away from being the 11th player in Tour history to qualify by winning three Web.com events in a season.
“Honestly, the difference this year is I just had an opportunity to play out here,” he said. “It’s my first year having (full) status, and I’m taking advantage of it.”