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Kyle Stanley takes five-shot lead into Farmers Open final round

Kyle Stanley, looking for his first PGA Tour championship, has a five-shot lead over John Huh and John Rollins heading into Sunday's final round at the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines.

January 28, 2012|By Diane Pucin
  • Kyle Stanley acknowledges the crowd after completing the third round of the Farmers Insurance Open with a five-stroke lead on Saturday at Torrey Pines.
Kyle Stanley acknowledges the crowd after completing the third round of… (Donald Miralle / Getty Images )

The way Kyle Stanley expresses himself with words is monotone. Although his voice doesn't rise or fall much, his golf ball does — because the way Stanley expresses himself with a club is breathtaking.

He hit a 342-yard drive on the par-five 13th hole Saturday at Torrey Pines, and if Stanley didn't give himself an inner "ooh," the gallery gave him one.

Stanley has a five-shot lead on the field after three rounds of the Farmers Insurance Open.

He birdied that 13th hole on his way to a second consecutive round of four-under-par 68. Stanley is 18 under after three rounds with a 198 total, the lowest third-round score since Tiger Woods in 1998.

And Stanley's five-shot lead is the largest third-round advantage since Woods led by eight strokes in 2008. Woods won that tournament by eight shots, but Stanley is inexperienced in this front-runner role.

The 24-year-old from Gig Harbor, Wash., has not won a PGA Tour tournament, and this is the first time he has led one going into the final round.

Stanley said he had a poster of Woods above his bed when he was growing up.

"He definitely influenced me," Stanley said.

And the way Stanley overpowered the South Course on Saturday was reminiscent of the way Woods could enforce his will on the layout.

The only mini-mistakes Stanley made Saturday came at the 12th hole, where he had his only bogey, and on the 18th hole, where he missed a four-foot birdie putt.

Tied for second are 21-year-old John Huh, who was born in New York and has lived in Chicago, South Korea and Los Angeles; and 36-year-old John Rollins, who has three titles in 12 years on the PGA Tour.

Huh had a third-round 68, the same as Rollins. Huh is a tour rookie whose highlights Saturday, he said, were two 30-foot putts and not rocket-powered tee shots.

Huh played high school golf at Crescenta Valley High in La Crescenta and briefly had plans to play college golf at Cal State Northridge.

But Huh, who is playing in only his second PGA Tour event, said he was lacking two core classes required by the NCAA in order to get scholarship money. So after spending "a couple of weeks" at Northridge, Huh said, he decided to turn pro. Huh played six events on the Asian Tour last year and earned his PGA Tour card by finishing tied for 24th at the qualifying tournament last year at PGA West in La Quinta.

But it was Stanley who caused the buzz Saturday. Even though he is only 5 feet 11 and 165 pounds, Stanley ranks second on the tour in average driving distance (316.4 yards per drive).

"For some reason, I've always been long," Stanley said. "I don't know why because I'm not the biggest guy in the world. I think it's about moving the right part of the body at the right time."

Stanley, who wore an orange shirt Saturday to represent his alma mater Clemson on University Day, when players were encouraged to wear their school colors, calls himself "an internal guy."

He said it's not his way to outwardly celebrate or show his nerves. But he did say that were he to win his first tournament Sunday, it would be important. "That's something you dream about as a kid," he said.

diane.pucin@latimes.com

twitter.com/mepucin

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