PGA Tour rookie Nick Dunlap soars up Houston Open leaderboard; puts struggles behind him

Since turning professional after his historic victory at The American Express, Nick Dunlap has struggled on the PGA Tour.

In his five events since, Dunlap has missed two cuts, finished dead last at Pebble Beach, and failed to contend at both the Cognizant Classic and the Arnold Palmer Invitational.

But he did not struggle during the third round of the Texas Children’s Houston Open.

Dunlap carded a 7-under 63, one stroke off the course record matched by Tony Finau on Friday. In doing so, the former Alabama star soared up the leaderboard and into contention.

“All I tried to do today was play perfect with what I had, not necessarily like perfect golf but getting the easy ones up and down, not three-putting,” Dunlap said of his third round.

“You’re not going to make every putt, and you’re not going to hit every wedge close, but from where I was trying to play a perfect round of golf, I feel like I did that.”

The reigning U.S. Amateur champion made seven birdies to zero bogies, as he now sits at 8-under for the championship.

Nick Dunlap, PGA Tour, Texas Children’s Houston Open

Nick Dunlap hits a putt during the third round of the 2024 Texas Children’s Houston Open.
Photo by Raj Mehta/Getty Images

Dunlap looked more comfortable out there. Perhaps that welcome sight can be attributed to playing practice rounds alongside Scottie Scheffler and Sam Burns. He played with Scheffler once again on Tuesday at Memorial Park.

“I think [Scheffler] plays practice rounds the same way he plays tournament rounds,” Dunlap reasoned.

“He obviously doesn’t miss very many golf shots at all; he’s putting a lot better. He does everything well that you’re supposed to do and is also obviously very good under pressure.”

Undoubtedly, the 20-year-old has learned a lot from both Scheffler and Burns, who teamed up at the Ryder Cup this past fall. But the biggest thing Dunlap has learned thus far is to focus on the little things because the margin for error on the PGA Tour is razor-thin.

“They’re really good, they’re really good,” Dunlap said of his fellow PGA Tour professionals.

“I’ve got to do the little things better, whether that’s the little up-and-downs. I think out here everybody thinks that they hit the super hard shots well, and they sometimes do, but it’s the easy shots, and the lag putts that they don’t stress about, they hit ‘em to kick-in [range], and they move on, and that’s something that I’ve got to get better at.”

Jack Milko is a golf staff writer for SB Nation’s Playing Through. Be sure to check out @_PlayingThrough for more golf coverage. You can follow him on Twitter @jack_milko as well.

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