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2024 Rocket Mortgage Classic leaderboard: Akshay Bhatia seeking third PGA Tour win tied on top with Aaron Rai

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2024 Rocket Mortgage Classic leaderboard: Akshay Bhatia seeking third PGA Tour win tied on top with Aaron Rai


Early morning thunderstorms dumped more than an inch of rain on Detroit Golf Club forcing play to be delayed by a couple of hours Saturday. Once players did get the third round of the 2024 Rocket Mortgage Classic underway, they were off to the races with Akshay Bhatia and Aaron Rai sitting in pole position at 17 under through 54 holes.

Bhatia will sleep on the lead for the third consecutive night, while Rai will do the same for the second straight evening. Entering the weekend sharing the top spot on the leaderboard, the pair were in lockstep as they aimed to fend off a ferocious chasing pack that ultimately cut their two-stroke lead at the halfway point into a one-stroke margin with 18 holes to go.

Rai was the first to strike a blow Saturday as he opened his round with a kick-in birdie. Three more across his next 10 holes were enough to keep Bhatia at bay. However, the Englishman blinked in the form of a bogey on the par-3 15th — his first of the tournament — and allowed the lengthy left hander to join him back at the top.

Matching birdies on the par-5 17th pushed both their names past that of Cameron Young and Cameron Davis at 16 under, but failed scoring chances coming down the stretch may have allowed even more players back into the final-round conversation. 

In total, 11 players find themselves within four strokes of Bhatia and Rai; proven winners like Erik van Rooyen and Min Woo Lee are among them. And then there are youngsters like amateur Luke Clanton, a rising junior at Florida State, who finds himself three adrift with a real chance to become the second amateur this year to win on the PGA Tour.

The leaders

T1. Akshay Bhatia, Aaron Rai (-17): While the final pair faced soft conditions, they also went up against tricky winds late in their rounds that posed some problems. Bhatia got stuck on the par train for most of his second nine, while Rai missed three straight greens in regulation at one point. Their inability to cash in — given the accessible pin locations and a few par 5s  — has lengthened the list of potential challengers. Despite all that, though, they still look great. Bhatia is the only player in the field without a bogey this week, while Rai hung tough in his own right making a crucial putt on top of Bhatia on No. 17. Par-5 scoring is something to watch with these two on Sunday as both have struggled to score on those holes the last couple of rounds.

Contenders

T3. Cameron Young, Cameron Davis (-16)
T5. Sam Stevens, Erik van Rooyen (-15)
T7. Min Woo Lee, Luke Clanton (a), Joel Dahmen (-14)
T10. Davis Thompson, Nick Dunlap, Patrick Rodgers, Troy Merritt (-13)

Seven times a runner up on the PGA Tour, Young seeks to enter the winner’s circle for the first time in his career Sunday. Coming into the weekend only a couple behind the leaders, the big-hitting right hander saw this deficit grow for most of Saturday. A fast finish that included three birdies in his final five holes saw Young touch the lead at one stage, but he will ultimately play out of the penultimate group on Sunday. Perhaps this is a position in which he will thrive, however, as Young seems to have done just about everything but win on the PGA Tour.

Will another amateur make history?

Nick Dunlap broke a 33-year drought at The American Express when he won as an amateur earlier this year. Florida State standout Luke Clanton now has a chance to do the same just six months later. The runner-up at the NCAA Championship this past year and to Neal Shipley in the low amateur competition at the U.S. Open, Clanton has kept his good play going in only his second PGA Tour appearance. Not since 1945 have multiple amateurs won on the PGA Tour in the same year.

“I think I the people I’ve surrounded myself out here the last couple years have been a big help with that because there’s a lot of doubt that goes in your mind sometimes,” Clanton said. “To be able to be out here and even say I’m in contention to win a PGA Tour event is pretty nuts. It’s pretty cool, man.”

Will Zalatoris cuts his week short

The former PGA Tour Rookie of the Year withdrew from the tournament after just eight holes during Saturday’s third round. Zalatoris told the CBS broadcast that he heard a pop in his hip during what was his fourth straight week of tournament golf. With Zalatoris’ injury history, one has to hope this move was a precautionary measure after missing most of the 2023 season due to his back.

2024 Rocket Mortgage Classic updated odds, picks

  • Akshay Bhatia: 5/2
  • Aaron Rai: 3-1
  • Cameron Young: 4-1
  • Cameron Davis: 13/2
  • Erik van Rooyen: 14-1
  • Sam Stevens: 18-1
  • Min Woo Lee: 20-1

The slow finishes from the final couple groups let a lot more people in this tournament. One of those is Lee, who after playing his first six holes in 1 over, played his final 12 holes in 7 under. He seemed to have found something with his ball striking Saturday; should that carry into Sunday, the Australian has the firepower to post a low on early to put pressure on the leaders late.





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