Knapp time, class from Matt Wallace among things to know from third round of 2024 Mexico Open

Early on in his rookie season on the PGA Tour, Jake Knapp is quickly making a name for himself. He has a chance Sunday to make sure people don’t have an excuse to not know who he is.

Knapp had a historic start Saturday during the third round of the 2024 Mexico Open at Vidanta, making seven birdies on the front nine for a 7-under 28, the lowest nine-hole score in course history. He shot 63, tied for the lowest round of the week, on Moving Day and leads by four heading to Sunday at Vidanta Vallarta in search of his first PGA Tour win in only his ninth start.

Knapp started with birdies on Nos. 1-2, and after a par at 3 made four straight from 4-7. Another par at 8, then Knapp added a seventh circle to the card on the ninth for a 7-under front nine.

The back nine had plenty more excitement, most of it thanks to some struggles around the greens. Knapp had three bogeys on the back nine but offset that with four birdies, including on his final two holes. He sits at 19 under with 18 holes to play.

For the week, Knapp is first in Strokes Gained: Approach, gaining nearly nine shots on the field. He’s fourth Off the Tee. But around the green, he’s losing more than a stroke.

However, his power off the tee and accuracy from the fairway is making up for the couple of shortcomings around the putting surfaces. And he’s 18 holes away from a life-changing victory.

Here are four more things to know about the third round of the Mexico Open at Vidanta.

Sami Valimaki lurking

2024 Mexico Open at Vidanta
Sami Valimaki of Finland lines up a putt on the second green during the third round of the Mexico Open at Vidanta at Vidanta Vallarta on February 24, 2024 in Puerto Vallarta, Jalisco. (Photo by Orlando Ramirez/Getty Images)

Matthieu Pavon proved earlier this year the group of players who earned their PGA Tour cards from finishing in the top 10 of the 2023 DP World Tour standings could hold their own on the PGA Tour. Only a month later, Sami Valimaki is trying to follow in Pavon’s footsteps.

The 25-year-old from Finland shot 4-under 67 on Sunday and sits solo second with 18 holes to play, and he will join Knapp in the featured pairing in the final round. Valimaki was 4 under on the front nine in the third round but a couple bogeys on the back nine helped keep the gap between he and Knapp bigger than it could be.

“Started really nicely, hit the ball well, especially first nine holes,” Valimaki said. “Then just couple bad decision off the tee with the irons, two easy bogeys, but in the end, good solid round.”

Valimaki is also a Tour rookie and has two wins on the DP World Tour. He played in the 2020 Olympics and is in great position to represent Finland again in Paris this summer.

A win Sunday would guarantee that spot.

“I have to shoot low one tomorrow to try to get the win,” Valimaki said. “I think 20 under should be good if I can finish there. We will see what happens. That’s my goal.”

Pure class

Walk-and-talk interviews are the new thing on the PGA Tour.

During Saturday’s broadcast, it was Matt Wallace, one of the 36-hole co-leaders, putting the earpiece in on the par-4 14th hole. He talked from the tee box to his ball to NBC’s Dan Hicks and Brad Faxon and Jim “Bones” Mackay before stopping to hit his second shot.

It went in the water. From roughly 265 yards out, his ball didn’t come out strong from the rough and found the water. However, he put the earpiece back in and kept the interview going.

“That’s all part of it, isn’t it?” Wallace said. “I need to deal with this. I need to get stronger. I need to play better golf and accept it. Get this up and down, and we go again. I can’t od anything about more than what I’m trying to do right now, it’s just not going my way.”

In the past, Wallace has a notion about him being a hot head on the course, but Saturday showed another side of the Englishman and opened up on the perspective of what the pro’s think after a shot didn’t go their way.

Wallace shot even-par 71 on Saturday and sits at 11 under for the tournament.

Ben Silverman ties low round of week

2024 Mexico Open at Vidanta
Ben Silverman of the United States acknowledges the crowd on the 18th green during the third round of the Mexico Open at Vidanta at Vidanta Vallarta on February 24, 2024 in Puerto Vallarta, Jalisco. (Photo by Orlando Ramirez/Getty Images)

It’s hard to find anything wrong with Ben Silverman’s 8-under 63 on Saturday.

Eight birdies. No bogeys. And the 36-year-old Canadian made a big move up the leaderboard and sits T-3 with 18 holes to play.

“I liked that I was pretty much just staying in the moment,” Silverman said. “I only looked at the leaderboard a couple times just to see what was going on. Just kept my foot on the pedal with trying to be aggressive and make as many birdies as I could.”

In 65 career PGA Tour events, Silverman has recorded only two top-10 finishes in his career and made $1.2 million in career earnings. He’s got a chance to add to both of those, especially the second number, in a big way on Sunday.

“My goal’s to win out here, so I’m going to be doing everything I can to chase down the leaders and try to win,” Silverman said.

Ortiz can't continue momentum

2024 Mexico Open at Vidanta
Alvaro Ortiz of Mexico plays a shot on the second hole during the third round of the Mexico Open at Vidanta at Vidanta Vallarta on February 24, 2024 in Puerto Vallarta, Jalisco. (Photo by Hector Vivas/Getty Images)

No player had more pressure heading into the third round than Alvaro Ortiz.

The winner of the 2021 Mexico Open, when it was a PGA Tour Latinoamerica event, is from Guadalajara, about three hours from Vidanta, and got a raucous ovation on the first tee as he started the day as a co-leader.

However, playing with Knapp, the duo had days on the opposite ends of the spectrum.

Ortiz shot 2-over 73 and didn’t make a birdie until the last hole in the third round, struggling to garner any momentum. Maybe it’s because Knapp stole it all in the penultimate group.

Ortiz, a Korn Ferry Tour member, has plenty at stake with a strong finish Sunday, including a good pay day. And possibly the standing ovation he got walking to the 18th green will be a momentum boost for the final round.

Story originally appeared on GolfWeek