DETROIT — Troy Merritt took off his cap and briefly bowed his head to acknowledge a roaring crowd after the primary ace of his PGA Tour profession.
He did not get to benefit from the second for lengthy.
Merritt’s hole-in-one gave him a three-shot lead, however he gave a stroke again on the subsequent gap with a bogey and shot a 5-under 67 on Saturday. Joaquin Niemann took benefit of the opening to share the third-round lead on the Rocket Mortgage Traditional.
Niemann, who shared the 36-hole lead with Tom Lewis, pulled right into a tie by two-putting from 46 ft at 17. He parred the ultimate gap, the hardest one on Detroit Golf Membership, for a 68.
Hank Lebioda (66) and Cam Davis (67) had been a stroke again, and Brandon Hagy (68) was one other shot behind. Lewis (71) was amongst six gamers three pictures again with a professional shot on the comparatively brief course with receptive greens.
“The mindset shall be make just a few birdies, however do not give any away,” Merritt mentioned. “Make them work to come back and get us, and hopefully, it is ok in the long run.”
Rickie Fowler (68) was in a pack of 10 5 pictures again, whereas first-round chief Davis Thompson (72) was six pictures again. After opening with a course record-tying 63, Thompson has performed the final 36 holes in 1 over with rounds of 73 and 72.
The 35-year-old Merritt made his first hole-in-one on the PGA Tour — from 219 yards with a 5-iron off one bounce — to provide him a three-stroke benefit.
Merritt was fired up, and the followers had been too, a yr after no spectators had been allowed to attend the 2020 Rocket Mortgage Traditional as a result of COVID-19 pandemic.
“It is superior to have the followers again out right here, whooping and hollering the nice pictures,” he mentioned, “commiserating with the unhealthy pictures and even listening to a few of the feedback you in all probability do not wish to hear.”
After his bogey, he closed with six straight pars.
Merritt, who’s from Iowa, received his second PGA Tour title on the 2018 Barbasol Championship. The subsequent yr, he missed two months of competitors resulting from a surgical procedure that eliminated a rib after he had blood clot that ran from his chest to his left elbow.
He entered this week with three top-10 finishes this yr — together with a pair of them in Could — to place him inside one in every of matching essentially the most he has had in a yr since making his PGA Tour debut in 2010.
Merritt moved atop the leaderboard shortly after beginning his Saturday spherical at 9 below, one shot off the lead. He had 4 birdies by way of seven holes and lamented not having one other, lacking a 14-foot putt on the ninth gap.
His ace on the par-3 eleventh put him at 6 below for the day, and he may need had a tough time composing himself.
“We had time to calm down earlier than the subsequent tee shot,” Merritt insisted.
Merritt, although, missed the green to the best on the 493-yard, par-4 twelfth. Then, he was lengthy on a chip and 14-foot putt, giving him a bogey and chopping his result in a stroke.
The 22-year-old Niemann had two birdies over his final 5 holes to place him ready to win for the second time on tour. He turned the primary participant from Chile to win on the PGA Tour at The Greenbrier in 2019.
“All people’s going to have their very own second, and I had my second fairly early,” mentioned Niemann, who has 4 top-10 finishes this season.
Defending champion Bryson DeChambeau missed the minimize and left Detroit with out talking to reporters, leaving lingering questions on making a caddie change on the eve of the event that he did not handle in an Instagram publish.
“Didn’t have my finest this week, however that’s golf typically,” DeChambeau wrote.