Weeks: Taylor Pendrith vie for first PGA Tour victory at Rocket Mortgage Classic

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With birdies on four of his last five holes, Taylor Pendrith has put himself 18 holes away from his first PGA Tour victory. The Richmond Hill, Ont., native heads to Sunday tied with Tony Finau at the Rocket Mortgage Classic. If it’s anything like Saturday, the final round should be a birdie-fest.

“Obviously this course has shown some low scores, so you’ve got to just keep making birdies if you want to stay in it,” said Pendrith.

No one in the field has made more birdies this week than the Canadian, who has 25 through three rounds including eight on Saturday as he and Finau battled back and forth all day.

After making a bogey on the par-4 13th hole when his tee shot sailed left and ended up behind a tree, Pendrith rallied, adding birdies on the next three holes – a par-5, a par-3 and a par-4. He made one more on the final hole, knocking in a 10-footer to go to 21-under par.

“Thirteen, just kind of hit a poor tee ball and maybe got a little bit of a bad break right behind the tree,” explained Pendrith. “To get three in a row after that was a big momentum boost and obviously set myself up nicely for tomorrow with those three holes, and to get one on the last was great.”

Finau, who won the 3M Championship last week, tried to keep pace with the Canadian, making seven birdies as the two long-hitters went back and forth all day.

“Obviously he made a ton of birdies and I finished the round with a lot of birdies, so it was fun,” said Pendrith. “We were going back and forth. Tony bombs it off the tee and I hit it far as well, so it was fun, kind of similar games I guess, and we attacked it very well.”

For his day, Pendrith missed just three fairways and only two greens. He’s been getting performance right through the bag sitting fourth in Strokes Gained: Off the Tee, second in Strokes Gained: Approach the Green and third in Strokes Gained: Putting.

Pendrith’s career has been one of resilience. He attended Kent State University where he roomed with Corey Conners for four years. Both appeared headed for big things after graduation but while Conners followed a steady path to the PGA Tour and a lofty spot on the Official World Golf Ranking, Pendrith battled injuries and spent time going between PGA Tour Canada and the Korn Ferry Tour. After two years spent on the Korn Ferry Tour in 2020 and 2021 when COVID stopped any promotion from the junior tour, he finally graduated to the PGA Tour this season.

But the hard luck continued to plague his career. After a good start that included a shot at a first win at the Butterfield Bermuda Championship in October when he held the 54-hole lead, Pendrith broke a rib during the Players Championship, putting him on the shelf for three and a half months. Now, in his comeback, he has put himself in a position to solidify his talent with a victory.

“I probably have more pressure just because I’ve never won before and Tony’s a multiple winner and he won last week and he’s playing great,” Pendrith said. “I’ve got a nice opportunity tomorrow being tied with him going into Sunday, so there’s 18 holes of golf left and who knows what will happen. I feel like my game’s in a good spot, I’m driving it well, I’m hitting my wedges good, it’s nice to see some putts go in. We’ll see. It will be a fun experience and just looking forward to competing and see what happens.”

Despite the two being four shots ahead of the rest of the field, Finau warned that with the golf club giving up low rounds, it might be easy for the two front-runners to get lapped by a player back in the field.

“Taylor’s playing some great golf,” he stated. “I can’t say pulled away from the guys, this is the type of golf course where someone can shoot eight, nine, 10 under, but if we put together a good round tomorrow, might be a two-man race and I’ m looking forward to the challenge again.”

A win would give Pendrith a bundle or rewards including a $1.5 million cheque. He would earn a two-year exemption on Tour as well as an exemption into the Masters, and the Sentry Tournament of Champions. He’d also become just the 16th Canadian to win on the PGA Tour and the first since Nick Taylor’s victory at Pebble Beach in 2020.

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