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Why this U.S. Senior Open contender could be one of the year’s best stories

Rob Labritz

A quick glance at the top-10 players on the U.S. Senior Open leaderboard through 54 holes reveals a who’s-who list of the game’s greats: There’s Padraig Harrington, leading by five. Ernie Els, Jay Haas, and Steve Stricker are there too.

But there’s another name in the mix that may be less familiar to golf fans — but likely not for long.

Rob Labritz, perhaps one of the week’s unlikeliest contenders, is currently tied for second at six under par. He’ll play Sunday’s final round alongside Els.

Labritz earned his PGA Tour Champions card last year by winning medalist honors at Q-School. He’s a lifelong club pro, and prior to Q-School, worked as the director of golf at Glen Arbor GC in Bedford Hills, N.Y.

Labritz had been a mainstay in recent years at the PGA Championship, which he qualified for almost annually by earning his berth at the PGA Professional Championship.

When Labritz turned 50, he turned his ambitions to the PGA Tour Champions. His emotional reaction to realizing his dream as Q-School’s medalist made him one of the year’s best stories.

Still, qualifying for the Champions Tour is one thing — managing to keep your card is another. And Labritz has more than held his own this season, posting three top-25 finishes in 11 events, including a career-best T5 at the Rapiscan Systems Classic in April.

Now, he’s poised to achieve the unthinkable. Though he trails Senior Open leader Harrington by five shots, anything can happen in golf, and Labritz knows that.

“I’m going to go out there and play my game, shoot under par, and wherever the chips fall, they fall,” he said after firing a third-straight round of two-under 69. “I’m going to play my best. There’s guys out here that have been doing this for 30 years. If they play better than me, so be it. I’m learning. I’m getting better. I’m improving.

“I feel almost like — not Will Zalatoris, but it’s like he’s so close. I feel like I’m so close. I feel comfortable,” he continued. “If I can just do the same thing I’m doing, wherever the chips fall, if I shoot under par, I’m a happy man.”

Regardless of what happens, Labritz is determined to soak it all in.

Labritz and Els will begin the final round at Saucon Valley in Bethlehem, Pa., in the penultimate pairing at 2:40 p.m. ET, followed by Harrington and Gene Sauers at 2:50 p.m. ET.

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