Vogel snags lead with hot start

Friday, July 3, 2009
Boys leader T.J. Vogel watches his shot Friday, July 3, 2009, in the AJGA Rolex Tournament of Champions at Dalhousie Golf Club. (Kit Doyle)

T.J. Vogel charged into the lead with reckless abandon during a sizzling front nine Friday.

Vogel played the first nine holes at Dalhousie Golf Club in 5-under par to grab the lead at the AJGA's Rolex Tournament of Champions. He said everything was going right early in his round.

"It was like pick a spot, hit it there and hopefully go in," he said. "That's just what I was doing."

Vogel, who has signed a letter of intent to play at the University of Southern California, carded birdies on Nos. 2, 3, 5, 7 and 9 to get started. He credited his putter for the hot streak.

"I hit the ball the same all three days," he said. "The difference is I made more putts at the beginning today. You've got to make putts to win a tournament. Putting is the most important part of the game."

Vogel cooled off on the back nine, recording four bogeys and a pair of birdies. He took bogeys on Nos. 16 and 17, which left him with a bad feeling. He responded by rolling his eagle putt about 3 feet past the hole on No. 18 and settling for a birdie and 7 under for the tournament.

"I needed a birdie to come in because I was pretty frustrated," he said. "I let it get away from me because I was 5 under. The birdie felt really good."

Talor Gooch, the leader after the third round, struggled some, posting a 5-over 77. He sits tied for ninth at 2 under.

Johnathan Schnitzer, who has been around the top of the leaderboard all tournament, had a chance to pull into a share of the lead, but put his second shot on No. 18 just outside the bunker that sits left of the green. It took him two shots to get onto the green.

"It was right on the lip," he said. "I had to stand about 4 feet below the ball and grip all the way up my shaft."

Schnitzer finished with a bogey to fall to 5 under for the tournament, tied for second.

"Did a great job on 18, in perfect position," he said. "I've got a 3-iron in my hand, trying to put it near the green, give myself a good chip at it. I got an unfortunate break and put it on the lip of the bunker. It was unfortunate, but still right there. Two-under par, I probably would have taken it at the beginning of the day."

Even though the round didn't end the way Schnitzer would have liked, he's OK with his position heading into today's final round.

"I think it helps to be older," he said. "This is actually my last AJGA. I graduated from high school. I think I've been in this position to kind of know how your body's going to react in the morning. Obviously a lot of adrenaline and you've got to keep yourself focused. The adrenaline is going to happen no matter what. You can't really avoid it. You just have to know how your body's going to respond and go ahead and play smart golf."

Vogel and Schnitzer will be joined in the final pairing by Gavin Hall, who scored a pair of birdies and a pair of bogeys to finish at 5 under for the tournament.

Vogel's group, which included Hall and Gooch, was joined by a healthy gallery during Friday's third round. He hopes even more people follow his group today.

"I love playing in front of people," he said. "I can't wait to play with bigger crowds. I played basketball growing up, so I'm used to crowds. I love the moment. I love the pressure."

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