Gotterup, Leading The Myrtle Beach Classic By Four, Is No One’s Rookie

Chris Gotterup had plans for a relaxing Saturday night after his dominant third-round performance to build a four-shot lead at the Myrtle Beach Classic. A little sports on TV – “whatever basketball and hockey are on,” he said – with some buddies at a rented house 10 minutes from The Dunes Golf & Beach Club. A quick dinner, too.

All of that was designed to keep him from dwelling on the idea that on Sunday, he could win the first PGA Tour title of his young career.

Nervous? “For sure,” the 24-year-old said with a laugh. “I’d be stupid to say I’d show up on the first tee and it’s going to be easy (to win). I’ll be nervous – and I’ll be ready as I can be for tomorrow.”

If that “ready” is anything like his first three days, it should be enough.

Gotterup followed opening rounds of 66-64, good for a 12-under par start, with a near-flawless 6-under par 65 Saturday to reach 18-under. His four-shot lead matches the largest 54-hole lead in any tournament this PGA Tour season.

He began building on his one-shot lead over Scotland’s Robert MacIntyre with a birdie at the par-4 first hole (to MacIntyre’s bogey), going up by three shots. He led the Scot by four at the turn, and never let anyone get close.

“Definitely, I got off to a good start,” Gotterup said after building his lead to four shots over MacIntyre after nine holes. “But definitely (it) was a little shaky. I was feeling it.”
It rarely showed.

How good was the New Jersey native, who was the NCAA national player of the year in 2021 at Oklahoma after transferring from home-state Rutgers? When he stumbled slightly with a bogey at The Dunes Club’s par-5 14th hole, it was his first bogey in 27 holes – and his lone slip of the day.

He rebounded immediately with a birdie at 15, and needed just 23 putts in his round, the last a 17-footer for birdie at the par-4 18th. That was his seventh birdie of the round, best among the leaders.

He’ll start in Sunday’s final group paired with South Africa’s Erik van Rooyen (who matched Gotterup’s 65), one of three pursuers at 14-under. In the penultimate pairing will be MacIntyre and Jorge Campillo, who struck “the best shot of my life” – a 151-yard, low hook approach to four feet at the 18th hole – for his own closing birdie in a round of 4-under 67.
MacIntyre witnessed Gotterup’s play up close in the final pairing, at one point falling a half-dozen strokes behind, before making three straight birdies at Nos. 15-17 to at least keep the leader in sight. It was a solid round of 3-under 68, but not solid enough.

“I made one bogey the first round,” MacIntyre said. “I made one bogey the second round. When I bogeyed the first (Saturday), walking to the second tee, I said to (his caddie), ‘That’s my one bogey gone.

“I just had to stay patient. I knew there was going to be lots of chances. It’s just about giving yourself as many as you can. Obviously (I’m) a little bit behind, but there’s another day to go.”

If there’s an obvious choice to put heat on Gotterup, it likely is van Rooyen, who shot 3-under 68 Saturday and had his own exciting finish to his round, draining a 60-foot birdie putt at 18. “Obviously a little cherry on top,” he said. “That was a nice way to finish.”

Van Rooyen is one of only a few players in the Myrtle Beach Classic field with a Tour win (actually, two) under his belt. His most recent was especially impressive: at the 2023 World Wide Technology Championship in Mexico, he scorched the course’s back nine in 8-under, en route to a 9-under 63, and won with an eagle at the 18th hole.

“Yeah, that’s huge,” he said of that win. “I think every player feels like (a round like that one) is somewhere in the back pocket. Having done that before and having made the putts I did down the stretch, (I) know if I’m right thereabouts with six holes to play, it could get interesting.
“Yeah, it gives me a lot of confidence.”

Of course, Gotterup has confidence, too. This week’s impressive results belied a couple of weeks when, he said, “the club didn’t feel good in my hands, and you just get on a bad run of maybe practicing too hard and stuff like that.

“But I’ve worked hard these last couple of weeks just not overdoing it, trying to simplify things.”

This year is Gotterup’s first full-time season on the PGA Tour, but the Tour doesn’t consider him a rookie. After leaving Oklahoma in 2022, he made eight Tour starts as a non-Tour member – all on sponsor’s exemptions – and spent last year on the developmental Korn Ferry Tour, where he earned his PGA Tour card for this year.

Due to those starts two years ago, Gotterup’s official designation is “first-year player.” Don’t be fooled, he said.

“Yeah, I feel like a rookie,” he said with a laugh. “Those eight starts were huge for me. I left school with no status at all and played good and grinded it out. I’ve kind of gone through the works of how you’re supposed to do it.

“Those events were huge. (But) to answer your question: Yes, I still feel like a rookie.”
If he closes the deal on Sunday, chances are those feelings will be gone.

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