After rounds of 71-66-69, Illinois Men’s Golf senior Nick Hardy heads to Sunday’s final round tied for the low-amateur lead at the John Deere Classic.
Hardy continued his great play at the in the third round, firing a 2 under round of 69 at TPC Deere Run in Silvis, IL. The Fighting Illini senior carded a total of four birdies during the third round of play, including a stretch of three consecutive birdies on the first three holes of his back nine. Hardy sits at 7 under for the tournament, and is tied with recent Stanford alum and Ben Hogan Award winner Maverick McNealy as the low amateur in the event.
“It’s fun, he’s a good buddy and one of the most decorated golfers in amateur history,” said Hardy of McNealy. “To beat him tomorrow would be awesome, he’s definitely someone I’ll be out there gunning for.”
Hardy began his third round on the tenth hole after PGA Tour officials sent groups of three players off the first and tenth tees. After narrowly missing birdie putts on ten and twelve, Hardy set up a tap-in birdie on the driveable 14th hole after his tee shot came to rest one yard short of the green.
Nick finished his first nine in 35 strokes, and preceded to rack up three consecutive birdies on holes one, two, and three. The hot streak vaulted Hardy into a tie for 9th, and ensured Hardy would make the secondary cut used to trim the final round field to 68 players.
“I played really well today,” said Hardy after his round. “I wish I rolled the ball a little better, but I’m really proud how I played.”
The big stage is not unfamiliar to Nick, as he has played in two US Opens in the last three years, along with an appearance at the Rustoleum Championship in Mundelein, IL. Hardy talked about how comfortable he has been at a PGA Tour event, and how Illinois Head Coach Mike Small has helped prepare him for an event like this.
“I love the atmosphere out here, and I love playing in front of these crowds,” said Hardy. “This is what it’s all about. Coach Small gets guys like us ready to be out here one day. He gets players that really want to be here with a goal or a dream in mind, and that’s what it’s all about for him.”
While this isn’t exactly a “home game” for Nick, this is the closest yearly PGA Tour stop to the city of Chicago. Despite being three hours from home, Nick has received overwhelming support from Illini fans, spectators, and family all week.
“It’s amazing. It feels like NCAA’s again with the support we have. It’s crazy how cool it is to have so many Illini fans show up to an event like this.”
Hardy begins his final round at 9:22am CST. You can follow @TCRBrad for live shot by shot coverage.