Tyler Duncan has never won a professional golf tournament.
But he’s on the verge of conquering the 28th Boise Open after shooting a 3-under-par 68 on Saturday at Hillcrest Country Club.
“I’d love to win the tournament,” said Duncan, who also led after the second round. “I feel like I’ve been close out here several times and I haven’t got the win.”
If he does finally win he will accomplish another huge goal: wrapping up his PGA Tour card for next season in the second event of the Web.com Tour Finals. The top 25 money winners after four Finals events will earn those cards.
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A solid round would set Duncan up for next season, but he has some experienced challengers who will be trying to prevent his first professional win.
Duncan, a 28-year-old Purdue graduate, sits at 15-under par after three rounds. Two strokes back is Jonathan Randolph, who has played 52 PGA events and finished 160th in this season’s FedExCup rankings with more than $500,000 in earnings.
“It’s a great opportunity and I’m embracing it,” said Randolph, a 29-year-old University of Mississippi graduate who played in this year’s U.S. Open.
Duncan and Randolph will make up the final pairing as they tee off at 2 p.m. Sunday. Each will have good-luck charm of sorts.
Duncan found a buckeye in the 15th fairway of the Nationwide event in Ohio two weeks ago, the start of the Finals. He proceeded to birdie three of the final four holes. That buckeye made the trip to Boise this week.
Randolph’s lucky charm comes in the form of a doting dog named Yodi. A miniature pinscher and Chihuahua mix, Yodi was one happy pooch as she got a smooch from Randolph as he left the 18th green.
“The dog is happier to see me than the wife (Lacy),” Randoph said. “The wife is happy, but the dog is just over the moon. … She’s our emotional support companion. She comes everywhere with us.”
Troy Merritt also had support from his family as he walked off the course, but his relatives didn’t have to travel far.
“I had the afternoon tee time yesterday, and I took both of my boys to school,” said Merritt, a Meridian resident and former Boise State player. “That’s not something I get to do when I’m out on the road.”
Merritt said he will qualify for a handful of tournaments next season because of his win at the PGA’s Quicken Loans National in 2015. But he’s playing in the Web.com Finals with higher aspirations.
“Right now … I’d be looking at six to 10 starts (next season on the PGA Tour),” Merritt said. “It’s not a good status, but I get to play. That’s the good thing. You can always catch fire and win one, and then you’re set for two more years. But I need to play well (Sunday) and the next two weeks to get my full card back.”
Merritt is in a group of golfers sitting at 8-under, in a tie for 19th. That puts him in position to meet his goal of making the final Web.com event two weeks from now.
“I want a good one tomorrow, something in the top 20, top 15, maybe sneak into the top 10,” he said. “And then I can try to do the same thing in Cleveland and kind of get it wrapped up before going to Jacksonville.”
NOTES: PGA Tour veteran Alex Cejka is alone in third place after shooting a 2-under 70 on Saturday. He was assessed a one-stroke penalty on the 15th hole after his club struck the ball twice, but he rallied with two birdies over the final three holes. … Steve Wheatcroft, the only former Boise Open champion still in the field, sits at 9-under in a tie for 10th.