The best putter is usually the best finisher at the Navajo Trail Open - and Caston Roberts has the right formula through two rounds.
Roberts, from Gilbert, Arizona, was described by spectators as the “best putter in the universe” as he methodically rolled his way to a second-round 1-under-par 70. The Lipscomb University product went 26 holes without a bogey to start the tournament and holds a two-shot lead going into Sunday’s final round. He shot 65 in the first round Friday on par-71 Hillcrest Golf Club course that plays 7,100 yards.
“I finished bogey-bogey, so that’s not the best way to finish, but I can’t complain about where I’m at,” Roberts said. “The course played a little bit differently with the wind swirling the way it was.”
Players went off in the morning Saturday after playing afternoon rounds Friday. The pros will go off in the afternoon again Sunday in the final round.
Andrew Buckle and Jere Pelletier played their way into the final group. Both are two shots back.
Pelletier was one of only two players to shoot consecutive sub-70 rounds heading into the final round after shooting 69 on Friday and 68 open Saturday.
“I thought the course played a bit tougher today,” he said. “It was kind of chilly in the morning, so I was just trying to keep it simple and chip away. Playing this course is like eating an elephant; you have to take one bite at a time.”
Braden Baer took a huge bite out of Hillcrest after making a triple-bogey on the par-5 17th. After starting on hole No. 10, Baer shot 32 on Hillcrest’s front-nine and captured the attention of everyone surrounding the clubhouse with his first ever hole-in-one on the par-3 ninth.
“I had two water balls and made a bad decision on 17, but just kept grinding,” Baer said. “My wedges were on point all day. I had a few one-foot or two-foot putts and I just felt like they were dialed in.”
Baer actually told his playing partners that he felt like one of his wedge shots was destined to find the bottom of the cup. The one that finally did was good for the tournament’s only ace this year.
“He called it,” playing partner D.J. Abbott said. “He said, ‘one of these wedges was going to go in,’ three holes before he made it.”
After a pair of 69s, Baer is in the hunt heading in to the final round. He is three shots back.
The low round of the day was a 5-under 66 delivered by Nathanial Goddard. It backed up a tough round of 77 shot Friday.
“I thought it played a little easier out there today, but that was probably because I just hit it so much better,” Goddard said. “I just didn’t see the short sides of these greens and that made a huge difference.”
Defending champion Wil Collins shot 1-under 70 Saturday and sits seven shots behind the leader. Tom Kalinowski’s second-round 69 put him four shots back, while Calum Hill and Miguel Ortega are three behind the leaders.
Roberts and the final group will tee off at 1:51 p.m. Sunday.