With his bread-and-butter iron play a tad off, Scott Stallings dipped into his wallet and had some old friends sent his way.
It was money well spent.
Before last week’s Travelers Championship, Stallings had a friend go to his house and hunt down an old set of irons he hoped would cure his ailing game. His friend wanted to make sure he shipped the right set, so he overnighted three sets of irons to Stallings at a cost of $400.
One of the sets is what Stallings was looking for. After one so-so round, Stallings became comfortable again with his old faithfuls, a set of Titleist T100s that replaced a newer set of the same brand. His 7-under 64 in Saturday’s third round of the John Deere Classic at TPC Deere Run in Silvis, Illinois, was his sixth consecutive round in the 60s.
More importantly, the round moved him up the leaderboard and into a prime position to win his first PGA Tour title since 2014.
“I think all golfers are certifiably insane to an extent because we know something is good, and there is always kind of the double-edged sword of always trying to get a little bit better. I tried this other set for about a year and went back to it last week and ended up third in approach to the green and I have no idea what I am this week. Feel like I’m doing something right,” said Stallings, who has shot 67-66-64. “Definitely have seen significant improvement in my iron play.
“I had some nice weeks, but just kind of inconsistent through the middle of the bag for me. Nothing is wrong with the way the club is made. It’s just as far as the way I deliver it in there. I think I match up a little bit better with the older ones.
“It’s nice to see that we were correct.”
Stallings’ 64 moved him to 16 under through 54 holes and into second place, three shots behind pace-setter J.T. Poston, who is trying to go wire-to-wire for his second PGA Tour title.
Joining Stallings at 16 under were Emiliano Grillo (65) and Denny McCarthy (66). At 15 under was Callum Tarren (65). At 14 under was Bo Hoag (day-low 63) and Monday qualifier Chris Naegel.
All those atop the leaderboard know Sunday will not be a day of rest. TPC Deere Run has yielded the most birdies on the PGA Tour since 2000, so red numbers and plenty of them will be needed to win the championship hardware.
J.T. Poston hits his tee shot on the 6th hole during the third round of the John Deere Classic golf tournament. Mandatory Credit: Marc Lebryk-USA TODAY Sports
Poston, who opened his week with a 62 (he also shot 62 in the first round of last week’s Travelers Championship), held a four-shot lead before he faltered a bit on the back nine with two three-putts. But he eagled 17 to go up by three.
“Obviously the first two days I had everything working great. Hitting it great off the tee, irons, and making a lot of putts,” said Poston, who has posted scores of 62-65-67. “And today wasn’t as sharp tee to green and didn’t putt it as well. To be able to still shoot 4-under, which is still very solid today, that gives me some confidence going into tomorrow. Hopefully hit it better, but if I don’t, I still got the ability to shoot a decent number.”
Stallings didn’t give all the credit to his old irons.
“It’s definitely the player. I mean, as much as I want to think it has to do with the equipment, it’s definitely me and the comfortability being over the top of the ball and being able to go and execute under pressure,” Stallings said. “I have no idea what tomorrow holds. I know that I have some things that I can control and kind of manage expectations, understand, but I showed up here Tuesday morning and told my caddie, if we’re here for anything other than to have a chance to win on Sunday then we don’t need to be here.
“That was kind of my mindset going in. I’ve played a ton of golf going into this week and obviously had a great Sunday last week to kind of build some momentum going in here. Look forward to the opportunity. Today was a big step in the right direction to tomorrow.”