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Last tee time the toughest

March 16, 2016

Even though Sam Saunders has had only one close call at winning on the PGA Tour, he has felt the pressure of playing the final hole.

In his last two PGA Tour starts, Saunders has gone into the dangerous part of the course with no room for error as he tries to make the cut. He made it through the ''Bear Trap'' at PGA National with four straight pars in the Honda Classic. And he closed with two tough par saves last week at the Valspar Championship.

Adding to the difficulty is the time of day.

Saunders plays out of the lowest priority, meaning he often gets the last tee time. With that comes a few distractions, making the task that much tougher.

''There's isn't one guy out here who wouldn't tell you tough it is,'' Saunders said. ''You're dealing with stuff that's ... it's strange. There's some people out on the course that are hooting and hollering. You're dealing with all the volunteers packing up and leaving. It's getting dark, so the rules officials are watching you because they want you to finish. Sometimes it can be a little tough to stay focused and not be distracted. Because there are a lot of distractions late on Friday.''

Last week, he got up-and-down for par on the 17th, and saved par from behind the 18th green to finish at 3 over and make the cut on the number. He didn't realize that because amateur Lee McCoy had made the cut, Saunders could have made bogey on the last hole and made it to the weekend, though with 85 players, there would have been another cut after 54 holes.

''I thought I had to make par and I hit a really good chip,'' he said. ''To hit that shot under that circumstance, it's extremely satisfying and you take a lot from that. And made cut is a made cut. And it's never a bad thing.''

A 67-70 weekend at the Honda Classic gave him a tie for 14th. A 68-72 weekend at Innisbrook gave him a tie for 22nd.

Saunders, the grandson of Arnold Palmer, will be taking on more duties at the Arnold Palmer Invitational. But it's still a PGA Tour event, and he fully expects to be in the last group no matter what side of the draw he is on.

''I'm always last off, and it's frustrating at times,'' he said. ''I think the earliest tee time I've ever had for Thursday-Friday was third or fourth from the last group. But most importantly, I'm getting a tee time. No complaints.''

Saunders has a tee time at Bay Hill this week. He's in the last group Thursday.




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