Martin Piller is a front-runner, plain and simple. A front-runner playing some of the best golf of his life.
Piller, a 29-year-old Dallas native, is in his comfort zone this weekend at the Web.com Tour’s Digital Ally Open at Nicklaus Golf Club at LionsGate in Overland Park.
He shot a 5-under-par 66 Saturday and is at 20-under through three rounds with a 2-stroke lead on his nearest challenger.
Piller is 18 holes away from becoming the first multiple-tournament winner on the Web.com Tour this season. He captured the Albertsons Boise Open last month in Boise, Idaho.
“It just seems like it’s been that way with me, with the tournaments that I’ve won. It just seems like it’s been from ahead,” Piller said. “I don’t really come from behind very well.”
Conditions were tougher Saturday than they were the first two days because of a substantial increase in wind velocity, but he knows scores may be low again in Sunday’s final round.
“To shoot whatever I shot, 5 under, and I only extend the lead by 1, it shows how good everyone is playing,” Piller said. “I may not even be leading by the time I tee off.”
One player who won’t have surpassed Piller by the time he hits the first drive of his final round is Darron Stiles, who moved into a tie for second with Shane Bertsch by shooting an 8-under 63. Bertsch shot a 68.
For Stiles, who has spent six of his previous years as a professional golfer on the PGA Tour, Sunday is all about lining up a return trip. A top 25 regular-season money list finish would get him that desired ticket.
“(It’s) the sole goal. The one motivation,” Stiles said. “This is the time of the year where we start thinking about the 25.”
Stiles and Bertsch will join Piller in the final group Sunday because of a change to the usual playing format.
Weekend play is typically conducted in groups of two golfers, but early morning storm delay forced players to tee off in threesomes Saturday just as they had on Thursday and Friday, when the field was twice as large. Based on early morning and late afternoon weather concerns Sunday, the threesome format has been adopted for the final round as well.
Stiles said he welcomes the change, particularly when he’s high on the leader board.
“I actually don’t mind playing in threes,” Stiles said. “I think we should play threes more often on the weekend.”
Even while bunching 75 players together and sending all of them off on both sides simultaneously within a two-hour window, challengers from deeper in the field are bound to emerge.
That reality is not lost on Piller, who after winning in Boise received a sponsor invitation the following week to the Barbasol Championship, a PGA Tour event in Auburn-Opelika, Ala. Piller finished in a tie for 19th place there after being in contention after three rounds.
“Every week out here guys make runs … you just have to play well every day,” Piller said. “The moment I get on the first tee tomorrow, I got to hit a good tee shot. I got to get out there and produce.”
Web.com Tour’s Digital Ally Open
WHEN: Gates open at 7 a.m. Sunday
WHERE: Nicklaus Golf Course at LionsGate, at 143rd and Dearborn streets. General parking and a free shuttle to the course are available at the Blue Valley Recreation softball and baseball complex at 137th and Antioch.
TICKETS: $10 for a daily ticket. Admission is free for kids 14 and under.