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Shriners notebook: Aaron Rai’s plans change after sterling 62

Aaron Rai stood on the 13th tee Friday two shots outside the projected cut at the Shriners Children’s Open and likely headed home unless something changed.

Did it ever.

Rai birdied three of his final six holes to make the cut, then took moving day to the extreme Saturday with a 9-under 62, rocketing him up the leaderboard and into contention for his first PGA Tour title. He’ll begin the final round five shots back at 14 under.

His low round on tour caused a change of plans for the golfer Saturday night.

“My sister is actually coming to town this evening, so I’m looking forward to seeing her actually,” Rai said. “To be honest, I think I’ll be a taxi service for her this evening, so I won’t be taking in the sights. I’ll probably pick her up from the airport and spend a bit of time with her and just drop her off to the hotel. It’ll be a quiet one for me this evening.”

Rai is in his second season on the PGA Tour after winning twice on the DP World Tour. He’ll be looking to improve on his best finish as a rookie, a tie for fourth at Torrey Pines. He also tied for sixth in the team tournament in New Orleans where he partnered with Las Vegas resident David Lipsky.

“In terms of my expectations, just to try and play a good round of golf tomorrow and just to try and do my best and see where that puts me at the end of tomorrow,” Rai said. “I think if I try and push or try and go outside of myself, that probably isn’t a great route for me to play good golf, so if I can put a good round together tomorrow, we’ll see where that puts us come Sunday.”

Carrying the Vegas flag

So much for local knowledge. It was a less than memorable day for the Las Vegas players in the field until Taylor Montgomery went on a late tear.

Montgomery went 5 under over a five-hole stretch on the back nine — including an eagle at No. 16 — to finish off a 66, putting him at 11-under 202 and a tie for 17th place.

“It was just one of those rounds where you just feel like you make a bunch of pars and very boring, but hitting a lot of good shots, and then all of a sudden a couple putts started to go in, started to hit a couple shots closer, and shot 5-under,” he said.

Other Las Vegans weren’t so fortunate. Maverick McNealy tumbled off the leaderboard, falling from a tie for third to a tie for 23rd after an even-par 71. Harry Hall (69, T-38), Ryan Moore (68, T-53), Doug Ghim (70, T-53) and Lipsky (71, T-68) mostly spun their wheels.

That list doesn’t include the eight players with Las Vegas ties who missed the cut Friday night: Kurt Kitayama, Seamus Power, Garrick Higgo, Justin Suh, Joseph Bramlett, Charley Hoffman, Scott Piercy and Nick Watney.

Aces away

Adam Hadwin finds himself in the top 10 thanks in part to a hole-in-one on the 151-yard par-3 14th hole Saturday.

His fourth ace of his career and second in five months came via a pitching wedge, landing short of the hole and having just enough juice to fall in.

“It almost looked like it stopped, but they were still kind of yelling for it to go in up by the green, so we knew it was still trickling at least, and then it disappeared, so it’s always a good feeling,” said Hadwin, who stands at 14 under in a tie for seventh.

Greg Robertson covers golf for the Review-Journal. He can be reached at grobertson@reviewjournal.com.

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