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Arnie’s putter helping Saunders around Old White

July 8, 2018 GMT

Media WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W.Va.—Sam Saunders is carrying quite a memento from his late grandfather, Arnold Palmer. In fact, the symmetries this week are quite compelling

Saunders is certainly playing well on his own merit so far at A Military Tribute at The Greenbrier as he carded a 3-under-par 67 in Saturday’s second round to get to 12-under, just two shots back of the lead shared by Harold Varner III and Kelly Kraft, the second-round leader.

Playing on the Old White TPC golf course at The Greenbrier Resort, where Palmer earned his money as a professional for the first time in the 1955 Greenbrier Open, Saunders is using a putter given to him by his grandfather and, so far, it has done nicely. He ranks 15th in the field in strokes gained putting heading into Sunday’s final round.

“It was one of the original two-ball putters from Odyssey,” Saunders said. “It’s a great putter and he did tell me that it was one he wanted me to use, so hopefully it’s got some good luck in it.”

Saunders only started using the putter again three weeks ago after originally using it in high school and college before switching. He’s still searching for his first career win and finds himself on a golf course that he’s suddenly figured out after years of struggle.

This week marks Saunders’ fifth appearance in the PGA Tour stop at White Sulphur Springs, and this is the first time he’s even made the cut, much less threatened to win.

After his Saturday round, Saunders said nothing had really changed with the golf course and credited his own improvements for the sudden success on the Old White TPC.

“I hit the ball a lot further now than I have the last few years,” he said. “I hit it higher and different shapes — I’ve played well at some courses this year that I haven’t the last three years due to a totally different shot shape, and I’m seeing holes a lot differently. All together, I feel like year four in now on Tour I’m just a better player.

“Maturity wise, any week when the game feels good it doesn’t matter if you like the course or not or it doesn’t fit your eye, you should be able to play good golf.”

VARNER’S PERSPECTIVE: Despite the fact that Varner is tied for the lead and looking for his first PGA Tour win, no one would ever know by what he said in the media room following his round on Saturday.

Varner, who said he plans to mow his parents’ lawn Monday regardless of what Sunday brings, is taking everything that comes in stride. He provided a refreshing moment of humility despite staring ahead at what could be the biggest day of his professional life.

“Keeping it in perspective,” Varner said. “At the end of the day, we play golf for a living. When it’s all said and done, no one is going to remember who won the 2018 Greenbrier in 60 years. It’s just fact. But I enjoy pushing myself and seeing how good I can get at this game.

“Personally, it means a lot, but in the grand scheme of things — look at the 12 kids that are in Thailand stuck in a hole. You’ve just got to keep it in perspective. It’s humbling, I think.”

LAST SWEDE STANDING: David Lingmerth fired a solid 2-under 68 on Saturday and sits at 8-under for the tournament tied for 14th place.

Though six shots back and in need of a miraculous Sunday to contend for a win, he did have a unique distinction Saturday.

Lingmerth, a native of Sweden, was the last remaining player in the field at A Military Tribute at The Greenbrier to have his home team still alive in World Cup soccer. Fellow Swede and former Greenbrier Classic champion Jonas Blixt missed the cut.

That came to an end, though, as Sweden fell to England 2-0 in a World Cup quarterfinal match Saturday. Though he had plenty of his own to focus on, Lingmerth admitted he had one eye on his phone and one on the driving range during his warmup.

“Throughout my warmup I was watching it in my trailer as I stretched and then had my phone ready to check out all the scores during hitting balls on the range,” Lingmerth said. “But it didn’t look like Sweden had much against the English team, so it is what it is. We’re out, but it was a fun run.”

Despite the loss, Lingmerth had plenty of bragging rights over his fellow competitors, something he admitted he used over the past couple of weeks with German Tour players Alex Cejka and Stephen Jaegar, both of whom are still in the tournament.

“Our group knocked out the Germans,” Lingmerth said.

“We’ve (bragged) a fair bit, both this week and last week, especially to (Cejka) and Jaeger.”

EYES ON THE OPEN: The famed Claret Jug, the trophy for winning the Open Championship, also made the journey to White Sulphur Springs and sat on a stand right behind the 18th tee box, a way of reminding players of yet another award for a solid finish this week.

Like last year’s Greenbrier Classic, this year’s A Military Tribute at The Greenbrier is part of The Open Qualifying Series, with four spots available into the Open Championship field for players not already qualified. Those spots will be filled by the top four players in the top 12 not already qualified. After Saturday’s third round, those positions would go to leaders Kraft and Varner, as well as Saunders and Joel Dahmen.

If there is a tie, the player with the higher spot in the World Golf Ranking would win the spot.