After watching short birdie putts lip out on No. 16 and No. 17, Ryan Gronlund shook his head with a look that said, “Can you believe this?”
He had the same expression on his face after watching a 30-foot birdie putt drop in the cup on No. 18 to complete a bogey-free round of 4-under 67.
“It was one of those ones where you just put your hands up in the air and laugh a little bit,” Gronlund said.
After a rough start to the Pac-12 Golf Championships, the breaks finally evened out for Gronlund on Tuesday. He posted Oregon’s best score of the day and moved to even par for the tournament, tied for 16th place with one round remaining.
Gronlund’s only regret was not cashing a few makeable birdie chances, especially on his back nine. But after struggling to stay in the fairway Monday, he executed his game plan to near perfection in Round 3.
“With the fairways being as tight as they are and the greens this fast, if you keep hitting greens, you’re going to be just fine,” Gronlund said. “I told myself, ‘Just give yourself as many looks at birdie as you can.’
“I think I hit 16 out of 18 greens today, so I accomplished what I was looking for.”
Recent rains have given the rough at Eugene Country Club some extra bite. Gronlund said the conditions made for some of the most challenging golf he’s ever played at his home course.
“This is the hardest I’ve ever seen it,” he said. “It can get you real quick, and I got ‘got’ yesterday.”
The course was no match for California’s Collin Morikawa, who blazed to the top of the leaderboard with a 7-under 64.
Morikawa opened the day with an eagle on No. 1 and made six birdies before a bogey on No. 18. At 11-under for the tournament, he holds a one-stroke lead over Utah’s Kyler Dunkle and a three-stroke lead over USC’s Justin Suh, the reigning champion.
“They’re some of the best players in the world, and I don’t think they’re going to stop by any means after today,” Dunkle said. “If I want a chance to win this tournament, I’m going to have to go out (Wednesday) and shoot a really good score.”
Oregon moved up one spot to fifth place at 9-over, one stroke behind fourth-place USC but well back of Cal (15-under), UCLA (12-under) and Stanford (11-under). Oregon State stayed in 11th at 48-over.
After going 2-under on the opening day of the tournament, Oregon freshman Craig Ronne got an up-close look at the competition atop the leaderboard. Paired with Suh and Dunkle, Ronne shot even par and ended the day in a tie for seventh place.
“They’re both seniors, both elite players,” Ronne said. “I played with Kyler earlier this season and I knew going in he’s great. I’m also playing with basically the No. 1 amateur in the world. There’s a lot of inherent pressure with that.”
Ronne handled the pressure admirably despite a few rough patches in his round. He was in the bunker on No. 2 and wasn’t quite dialed in with some of his approach shots, but he finished strong with birdies on No. 16 and No. 17, followed by a tricky par save on No. 18.
“I felt really solid,” Ronne said. “I feel like I was dealt a ton of misfortune today. I had to fight to get through it, but the round completely came together at the end, which was nice. “
Wednesday's final round begins at 8 a.m.