Nathan TYLER took control of the leaderboard during Saturday's third round at The Players Cup. A bogey-free, three-under round of 69 at Pine Ridge Golf Course gave Tyler a 15-under total at the PGA Tour Canada event and a two-shot edge on Mackenzie Hughes and Carlos Sainz Jr.
Tyler had birdies on the second, fifth and eighth holes on the front nine, but didn't improve his score on the back, making par on every hole.
"I hit the ball absolutely unbelievable today and I got nothing out of it, just because there was some really gusty winds," Tyler said. "I had hit shots that I thought I'd put in the hole and they'd end up on the back of the bunker, like on 14 (a par-three), with no chance. I got up and down out of that, which was probably one of the best bunker shots I hit in my life."
The Tucson, Ariz., golfer keeps his game plan simple: aim between the trees and hope the ball falls on the green.
"It's not taking a lot of risk and just keeping the ball in front of you. I'm trying to hit as many greens as possible, get some (birdie) putts and hopefully some fall," Tyler said. "I'm just focusing on my own game and just plodding along, like I did today. Hopefully, I get a few more out of it."
Hughes, of Dundas, Ont., rose to second with a 2-under 70 that ties him with Sainz at 13-under.
"Today I felt some of the nerves I knew I would feel. Starting out on the front nine I got off to a good start. I hit a great drive on the first hole and I felt pretty good. And then midway through my front nine I hit a couple of weak shots and got a little bit uncomfortable," Hughes said.
Ironically, once Hughes and his playing partner Cory Renfrew were put on the clock for slow play, his game started to improve. The time crunch kept him focused and ready for each shot.
"I had a lot of good chances and made a couple of nice putts. I missed some really good opportunities, but overall I was pretty pleased with how I regrouped in the back nine and kept myself in it," Hughes said.
The 2011 and 2012 Canadian Amateur Champion doesn't plan to change his mindset heading into the final round.
"It's tougher for guys at the top of the leaderboard, it's going to be harder for them. It's not going to be easy for them to put their pedal down to the metal," Hughes said.
"I don't think the guys on the top have won on this tour either, so they're in the same boat as I am. I'm going to have a great experience no matter what and I'm just looking forward to being in the mix on the back nine and giving myself a chance."
Sainz, meanwhile, shot a 1-under 71 to keep himself in the mix. Even though he did drop from first to second on the day, Tyler's two-shot lead was nothing to be discouraged about.
"It definitely started out good, but I didn't finish it the way I wanted to. But you know, I'm only two shots back and still in position to win," Sainz Jr. said. "You play for the final nine holes coming into the tournament and hopefully I'll be there."
Sainz had four birdies on the front nine and had a one stroke lead on Tyler, but a bogey on the par-four 11th and double bogey on the par-three 16th nearly cancelled out any progress he made in the front.
"I'm giving myself a lot of opportunities. You're going to have some bad swings but you've just got to recover from them as best as you can. I'm definitely playing some good golf and I'm looking forward to (the final round)," Sainz said.
Sainz and Hugo Leon will tee off at 1 p.m. today while Tyler and Hughes will be the last group out at 1:10 p.m.