Rocket Mortgage: Sensational amateur Luke Clanton in contention, looks to seize history like Nick Dunlap

Florida State sophomore Luke Clanton burst onto the scene Saturday at the Rocket Mortgage Classic as he posted the score to beat.

He signed for a 7-under 65 to sit at 14-under and just a few shots behind the leaders.

Clanton recorded six birdies, an eagle and one bogey on the day. He was 5-under through 11 holes before he dropped a shot at the 12th.

“We stayed super calm and super in the process of what we’ve been doing,” Clanton said after his round on Saturday.

“I think that’s one thing I’ve been struggling with the last couple of months is not getting ahead of my game and looking into the future, but today, I think we did such a good job of not trying to force the birdies out there, but we just stayed really in our process today.”

Through three rounds, Clanton leads the field in strokes gained off the tee with +4.378. He is also No. 7 in strokes gained putting, picking up +4.346 on the rest of the field.

However, in Saturday’s round alone, he leads in strokes gained off the tee (+1.491), putting (3.801) and total (+4.712).

His flat stick was phenomenal as the Seminole golfer made 117 feet of putts during the third round. However, his eagle on 14 was a veteran-like shot that showed what kind of guts he has.

“I smoked a driver way down there, and that was probably one of the harder ones I hit all day,” he said. “Had the perfect 5-iron number with left-to-right wind. I looked at Jason and said this could be really good if I hit this good, and I flushed it. I said, “Be the right club,” and he said it. Hit it close and tapped in for eagle, so it was pretty sweet.”

His 7-under 65 put him right into contention to win a PGA Tour event. Can the 20-year-old make history this week? He made the cut at the U.S. Open and finished tied for 41st. Clanton was the second-lowest amateur behind Neal Shipley, who made his professional PGA Tour debut this week.

“To be able to be out here and even say I’m in contention to win a PGA TOUR event’s pretty nuts. It’s pretty cool, man,” he said.

“I shot 7 under today, it was amazing, but we could have made a couple more birdies out there. My game plan has been the same all week, pound driver as hard as I can, get it down there and make a few putts — it’s been good.”

The last amateur to win on the PGA Tour was Nick Dunlap, who won the American Express in January. He became the first amateur since Phil Mickelson in 1991 to win on Tour.

The American Express, Nick Dunlap, Rocket Mortgage Classic, Luke Clanton

Photo by Orlando Ramirez/Getty Images

Now, Clanton looks to add his name to the history books.

“Me and Nick go way back so it’s awesome to see him do that,” Clanton said. “It’s cool, man. I think amateurs now, we’re so good. I think a lot of guys have great chances of winning out here and to be in contention with one day to go is pretty sweet.”

The Florida State sophomore had one of the best springs with three consecutive victories at the Seminole Intercollegiate, the Valspar Collegiate Invitational and the Lewis Chitengwa Memorial.

Clanton recorded 10 top-10 finishes in 14 tournaments this past season, and he finished at par or less in 30 of his 40 rounds. He is currently ranked No. 6 in the World Amateur Golf ranking system.

If the Ben Hogan semifinalist wins on Sunday, it will be the first time in 79 years that two amateurs have won on the PGA Tour. Cary Middlecoff and Fred Haas were the last to win in the same season in 1945.

Clanton will likely be in one of the final groups on Sunday, as his 65 pushed him 22 spots up the leaderboard.

Savannah Leigh Richardson is a golf staff writer for SB Nation’s Playing Through. For more golf coverage, follow us @_PlayingThrough on all major social platforms. You can also follow her on Twitter @SportsGirlSL and Instagram @savannah_leigh_sports.

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