SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — A nettlesome wedge shot flustered Charlie Saxon enough for him to vent a little frustration on his club during the third round of the Lincoln Land Championship at Panther Creek Country Club on Saturday.
He quickly rebounded on the next hole with his only birdie on the back nine to preserve a one-stroke lead over 2018 tournament champion Anders Albertson and enter Sunday’s final round at 18-under-par.
Austen Truslow and Brett Drewitt remain close behind in third at 16-under while Ben Kohles sits fifth at 14-under.
“It was good after kind of parring it out there for 10 or so holes,” Saxon said of his birdie on the par-5 16th, breaking a streak of 11 straight pars. “It was nice to hit a good iron on the green there. I hit a pretty abysmal eagle putt but it was nice to roll in a 3-footer for birdie. I played a solid two holes coming in and I’m sitting in a good spot.”
Saxon, of Tulsa, Oklahoma, also dropped his putter on No. 15 after missing his golden birdie opportunity that started with a promising long drive within 100 yards of the green. But Saxon said his caddie, Ryan Boshoven, helped allay the frustration.
His patience paid off on No. 16 with a birdie after nailing the middle of the green from 195 yards with a 7-iron on the par-5.
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“The putter was an accident,” Saxon said of No. 15. “I had 85 yards from there — pretty easy wedge shot. I was just biding my time all day waiting for an opportunity to really get a good look at birdie. That was a bit of a bummer. It was nice to back it up with a birdie.”
Albertson, who has one top-10 finish this year and ranks 75th in the Korn Ferry Tour points standings, chipped in from 94 yards for eagle on No. 8 and birdied Nos. 13 and 16.
“I was doing some work on the range last night,” Albertson said of his chip shot. “That was a great number for me.”
Albertson previously went 25-under at Panther Creek in 2018 for his only victory on tour. He also finished fifth in 2017, one stroke away from reaching a four-way playoff won by Adam Schenk.
“It’s nice to come back to a place where you’ve had success,” Albertson said.
For the third straight round, Saxon had no bogeys. The University of Oklahoma graduate last won professionally in June 2018 on the PGA Tour Series in China and is ranked 51st in the point standings with two top-10 finishes. This year’s champion receives 500 points in the Korn Ferry standings and $108,000 with four more tournaments left on the schedule.
“I really didn’t hit it as well as I have the last few days,” Saxon said. “The putter saved me at the end of the day. I made a couple real nice 70-footers (for a two-putt) for par on the front nine. They kept my round together.
“It wasn’t the cleanest round even though my scorecard was lacking bogeys, but I’m happy with it. We’re moving forward. Hopefully I play a little bit better tomorrow.”