Atkins, Lindheim Share 54-hole Lead at DAP Championship


Nicholas Lindheim
Nicholas Lindheim sits tied atop the 2017 DAP Championship leaderboard with Matt Atkins after three rounds.

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DAP ChampionshipCLEVELAND, Ohio – Nicholas Lindheim is working to finish what he wasn’t able to last year at the DAP Championship. The 32-year-old fell in a playoff a year ago to Bryson DeChambeau, and he’s working to atone for that this weekend after grabbing a share of the 54-hole lead Saturday with Matt Atkins at 9-under 201.

2017 DAP CHAMPIONSHIP LEADERBOARD >

“I played well today. I played better than I did yesterday,” Lindheim said. “I just stayed steady. Obviously, hanging in there and letting it happen is what you have to do out there. You can’t force anything out here. You force it and you’re going to make mistakes.”

Atkins has held at least a share of the lead after each round thus far and continued his steady play with a third-round 1-under 69. Throughout the week, the 26-year-old has ridden a hot putter with only 82 putts through three rounds. He ranks tied for third in putts per round (27.33) and tied for fourth in putting average (1.667).

“I feel like the putter has been there all week, and I had a nice little birdie on No. 9 that I was lagging down there that pretty much fell in the hole,” Atkins said. “But, yeah, I’ve been putting well, and I’ve had a really good feel on the greens all week. For me, I think that’s the strength of my game.”

For Lindheim, the recipe has been a little different. Superior ball-striking has led him to the top of the leaderboard after a second-round, 2-under 68. Through three rounds, he’s tied for the field lead in greens in regulation with 45 of 54 greens hit.

“Just because you have a sand wedge in your hand doesn’t mean you have to go after the flag,” Lindheim said. “So I’ve been good about listening to where my caddie wants me to hit the ball and take our chances from there.”

Atkins remained atop the board for much of the day with a lead that ballooned as high as three shots entering the 15th hole, but Lindheim poured in back-to-back birdies on 15 and 16 to narrow the gap.

“I made some putts. I made a long one on 15, which was a bonus, and a nice par putt on 16, which once again was a bonus,” he said.

web.com tourAfter Lindheim narrowed the gap, Atkins made his biggest mistake of the week with a double bogey at the par-5 16th after losing his approach in the back bunker and the lead in the process.

“I came out here thinking anything under par would be a solid round. Obviously had a little hiccup on 16 and blew an opportunity to kind of extend the lead or keep it at one or two shots and it is what it is,” Atkins said. “That’s the first time I didn’t really get out of jail this week. But overall it was a solid day. I played really well. I don’t want to let what happened on 16 define how the rest of the round went because I played pretty well.”

Atkins, who already has his PGA TOUR card secured through the Regular Season money list, has the freedom of a TOUR card entering the final round that Lindheim doesn’t have. Whether players want to admit it or not, the Owensboro, Kentucky, native believes it’s an advantage. When a player only needs a top-four finish to lock up their TOUR card, they might not play for the win as aggressively or with the freedom of thought that he can.

“I think that’s one of the benefits of being in my position is there’s not that extra thing on the line,” Atkins said. “All of us want to win and that’s the bottom line, but when you let your mind wander and you don’t have your card wrapped up, in the back of your head you want to win but you’re ok with finishing top-five because you know what that means.”

Not Lindheim, though. He says the victory is the only thing he’ll be concerned with Sunday. Where he ultimately falls on the money list will be a byproduct of his play, not his approach.

“Why do we all play this game for a living?” Lindheim asked rhetorically. “We play this game to make a living, so $180,000 sounds a lot better than $50,000. That’s always gotten my fire going.”

Both Lindheim and Atkins have held the lead/co-lead once previously on the Web.com Tour after 54 holes, and both were able to convert that lead to victory. But Lindheim, the self-taught player, won’t be leaning on thoughts of how he handled the lead in his victory at the 2016 Utah Championship presented Zions Bank. Instead, he’ll be trying to replicate what he did last year in the final round when he shot a 4-under 66 to play his way into the playoff. Only this time he’ll be hoping for a different result.

“I don’t really revert back to what I’ve done in the past. I know a lot of guys do, and it’s probably more so the proper thing to do, but I take each day one at a time,” Lindheim said. “So tomorrow I’m going to go out and play exactly the way I did the first three rounds and wherever I end up on the leaderboard, whether it’s first or fifth or 50th, it doesn’t matter. I’m going to stick to the same routine.”

Matt Harmon (67), Joel Dahmen (68), Chesson Hadley (68), and Shawn Stefani (69) are all just two shots back of the lead in a tie for third at 7-under 203.

“If you’re in double digits tomorrow, you’re going to have a really good chance to win,” Atkins said, “because the golf course is playing really tough.”

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– By Nick Parker, PGATOUR.COM

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