Journeyman Nate Lashley’s ascent to the top of the leader board at Detroit Golf Club has been the story of the inaugural Rocket Mortgage Classic. And it will continue to be come Sunday night should the 36-year-old former University of Arizona golfer, who tragically lived through the death of his parents and girlfriend while in college, keep his six-stroke lead during the final round and win his first PGA Tour title after having just one prior top-10 finish in any of his previous 32 starts on tour.
But it’s also worth noting just how many statistical oddities seem to be playing out this week in the Motor City.
With Lashley holding a six-shot advantage through 54 holes, just as Chez Reavie did last week at the Travelers Championship, it marks only the second time since 1983 that players have led by six or more entering the final round in consecutive tour events. The other occasion? Back in 2005, Kenny Perry led the Colonial Invitational by seven strokes with one round to play, and then a week later, Justin Leonard led the FedEx St. Jude Classic by eight. Both players went on to win the events.
Neither Perry or Leonard, however, earned their victories after being an alternate who was the last player into the field. Lashley tried to Monday qualify for the Rocket Mortgage, but missed out. He only got into the tournament at the last minute when David Berganio Jr., withdrew on Wednesday. If Lashley, who sits at a preposterous 21-under 193, can come out victorious, he’d be the first alternate to win on tour since Vaughn Taylor won the 2016 AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am.
Why should we have faith that Lashley can do it, despite this being the first time he’s held a 54-hole lead in a tour event? Only seven players have ever lost leads of six shots, the last coming when Dustin Johnson did it at the 2017 WGC-HSBC Champions. And Lashley is the fourth player this season to have a total of 193 or lower through 54 holes: Matt Kuchar shot a 192 at the Sony Open in Hawaii, Rickie Fowler shot 193 at the Waste Management Phoenix Open and Kuchar again shot 193 at the Mayakoba Golf Classic. All three went on to win.