Ryan Brehm is running away at a record pace in the 97thMichigan Open Championship presented by LaFontaine Cadillac at Prestwick Golf Club.
The 28-year-old Mount Pleasant native, Grand Rapids resident and PGA Tour Canada golfer shot a course-record 9-under-par 63 Wednesday to take a seven-shot lead into Thursday's finalround of the $57,500 state championship.
Brehm is at 21-under-par 195 through three rounds, seven ahead of Petoskey's Joey Garber, eight ahead of Grand Blanc's Willie Mack III and is certainly the guy to beat for the first place check of $8,500 and a one-year lease on a new Cadillac from LaFontaine.
He's also bearing down on the all-time tournament scoring record of 23-under-par, which 2012 winner Barrett Kelpin tied at The Orchards and Chick Harbert originally set in 1948 at TamO'Shanter.
"It's not like he got a bunch of lucky breaks out there," said Garber, who played in the final pairing with Brehm, shot 66 for a 14-under-par 202 total and lost ground. "He's playing well and making putts, and when he's doing that he's hard to beat."
Brehm, the 2009 and '10 Michigan Open champion birdied the last four holes and had 10 birdies total against one bogey. He made a 40-foot putt on No. 16, hit 7-iron to six feet on thepar 3 17th (198 yards) and hit a 130-yard gap wedge into the 467-yard 18thto four feet for birdie. He topped the previous course record from the back tee position by two shots.
"I'm scoring well," he said. "I've hit some pretty ugly shots actually, but my decision making has been good so those shots didn't hurt me that bad. When I've had to get up and downto save a shot here or there, I've been able to do that."
Mack, who shot 71 for 203 and made two bogeys following the first of two rain delays with some putting woes, said he knows he has to shoot a very good score in the final round to havea chance at catching Brehm.
"At least we get to play in the same group with him and see what he is doing," he said. "We just try our best to catch him."
A stellar trio is tied for third, but 10 shots off the lead at 205 after each of them shot 69. It includes six-time champion Scott Hebert of Grand Traverse Resort and Spa, 2007 MichiganOpen champion and 2013 Tournament of Champions winner Andy Ruthkoski of Muskegon and Henry Do, a University of North Carolina golfer from Ypsilanti.
Evan Bowser, an Oakland University golfer from Dearborn, shot 65 to stand alone at 208, and Alexander Dombrowski, a Princeton University golfer from Gaylord, shot 70 for 209.
Defending champion Tom Werkmeister of Kentwood shot 72 for 210.
Brehm said he will try not to think about his big lead. "I might play conservatively in some spots, but I will still play aggressively to my targets," he said. "I'm going to have to play well. The golf course is yielding birdies, especiallywith the rain. Joey was knocking it stiff all day, and I know he is capable of doing what I did today. So I'm going to have to go out and play really well."