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Akshay Bhatia looks for return to Augusta; leads Valero Texas Open

2024 Valero Texas Open

Denny McCarthy hits a tee shot on the 10th hole during the third round of the Valero Texas Open golf tournament. Mandatory Credit: Erik Williams-USA TODAY Sports

While Brendon Todd made birdies on the final two holes of the day to get to 8 under, the final round of the Valero looks to come down to two players: Bhatia and Denny McCarthy.

Aside from a couple of bogeys on the front, Bhatia experienced few hiccups on Saturday, using three birdies on his final five holes to stay in command. At 15 under he enters the final round with just a single player within seven strokes. The 22-year-old from Los Angeles turned pro in 2019 and is No. 87 in the Official World Golf Ranking.

After talking with his sports psychologist on Friday night, Bhatia scribbled something on his wrist before Saturday’s round.

“It just says ‘race my race.’ I’m just going at my own pace, focusing on myself, keeping the blinders right in front of me,” he said. “I look at that all the time because you can get caught up in a lot of things out here and if I’m just kind of doing my own thing and trying not to let outside stuff bother me, then I just can focus on myself and whatever the outcome is, it is.”

The way McCarthy is putting, however, anything is possible. The University of Virginia product is poised to set a record for the fewest putts in the history of the century-old tournament and might break the Tour record. Through 54 holes, McCarthy has just 70 putts, a 29-footer on the final hole of the day coming within inches of dropping. If he has 21 or fewer putts on Sunday, he would eclipse the mark set by David Frost, who had 92 putts at the 2005 MCI Heritage at Harbour Town.

“I think maybe a little early on maybe (the greens) felt a little bit slower today, there was a little bit more moisture in them, but it was nice to see Rory (McIlroy) and Tommy (Fleetwood) maybe hit a few putts before me to get a gauge of that,” McCarthy said. “I had some nice ones roll in. I had some other good opportunities I didn’t really quite take advantage of today, but all in all I played a solid round of golf.”


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