A course with Noh name

Korean stamp­ing his sig­na­ture on TPC Louisiana

SundayXtra - - SPORTS I COMICS - By Brett Mar­tel

AVON­DALE, La. — If Se­ung-Yul Noh can hold on to the lead in the Zurich Clas­sic, he’ll do it front of fans who can ap­pre­ci­ate how much big­ger Noh’s mis­sion is than sim­ply win­ning his first PGA Tour event.

Wear­ing yel­low and black rib­bons on his hat to hon­our vic­tims of the April 16 South Korean ferry ac­ci­dent, Noh used a string of birdies late in his round Satur­day to surge two strokes ahead of Kee­gan Bradley atop the leader­board.

It is Noh’s first ca­reer lead through three rounds on the tour, and comes in a city where sports — par­tic­u­larly the suc­cess of the NFL’s Saints — be­came an up­lift­ing force af­ter Hur­ri­cane Ka­t­rina.

Noh finds him­self rep­re­sent­ing — and cap­ti­vat­ing — a na­tion mourn­ing the more than 300 dead or miss­ing — many of them stu­dents — from the sink­ing of a ferry in the wa­ters off his home coun­try.

“Hope­fully, I’ll make all the Korean people happy,” Noh said. “It was very sad news for the Korean ship, so hope­fully an­other bo­geyfree round to­mor­row, and hope­fully good news for the Kore­ans.”

Noh is the first player to com­plete 54 holes at the TPC Louisiana with­out a bo­gey. He shot a 7-un­der 65 to reach 18-un­der 198. No player has com­pleted all four rounds on the course at bet­ter than 20 un­der, the score Billy Horschel posted last year, when he be­came the sixth player in the last nine years to se­cure his maiden PGA Tour tri­umph in New Or­leans.

Noh will try to con­tinue the trend when he tees off in the same group as Bradley, who is no stranger to win­ning. His three ca­reer tour vic­to­ries in­clude a ma­jor in the 2011 PGA Cham­pi­onship.

Bradley said he doubted that he would in­tim­i­date Noh, but added, “It is def­i­nitely hard get­ting your first win.”

Bradley be­gan the day tied for sev­enth at 9 un­der. He pulled into a tie with Noh for first on No. 15 with his sev­enth birdie of the day.

Then, Noh, who was tied for third at 11 un­der af­ter two rounds, made birdie putts of 13 feet on 14 and 10 feet on 15 be­fore hit­ting a 112-yard ap­proach shot to a foot for an­other birdie on 16, bring­ing him to 18 un­der.

Bradley also shot 65, mak­ing eight birdies. He also made one bo­gey on the par-3 ninth hole, when his ball landed left of the green, rolled down a bulk­head lined with cy­press planks and into a wa­ter haz­ard from which al­li­ga­tors have been mak­ing rou­tine ap­pear­ances this week. It didn’t faze him, though.

“I’m most proud this week of where I’ve been men­tally on the golf course and how calm I’ve felt,” Bradley said. “I love be­ing in this po­si­tion, a cou­ple back go­ing into Sun­day. I’d like to be a cou­ple in the lead, too, but I love chas­ing.”

Robert Streb was third, three shots back af­ter a 68. Paul Casey’s 64 was the day’s best round. He moved up to a tie for sev­enth with Charley Hoff­man at 13 un­der.

Ben Martin, who had a three-shot lead af­ter two rounds, shot a 73 to drop into a tie for fourth with Jeff Over­ton and Andrew Svo­boda at 14 un­der. Over­ton shot 67, and Svo­boda 70.

Noh is in his third year on the tour, but fin­ished out­side the top 125 on the money list last sea­son, forc­ing him to play in Web.com Tour Fi­nals events to re­tain his tour card.

“Very dis­ap­pointed in the whole sea­son last year,” Noh said. “I learned from that time... So I’m very ready for to­mor­row.”

He had never be­fore been higher on the leader­board than tied for sec­ond through three rounds. That hap­pened once at the 2012 AT&T Na­tional, but he shot a 2- over 73 in his fi­nal round to fin­ish tied for fourth, his best fin­ish in 77 pre­vi­ous PGA Tour starts.

Martin had raced to the lead with a course-record 10-un­der 62 in his first round, and his 36-hole score of 129 also was a course record. But he was never able to get things rolling on Satur­day.

— The As­so­ci­ated Press

JONATHAN BACH­MAN / THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Spurred by a late birdie spree, South Korea’s Se­ung-yul Noh shot 65.

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