Ricky Barnes has never won on the PGA Tour, but with a ripped physique, a leave-nothing-in-the-bag swing and a stunning pro beach volleyball player for a wife, he’s often been the envy of his fellow competitors during his 14-year career.
It would be almost fitting if Barnes, one of the toughest players on Tour, finds a way to finish on top at the most difficult non-major course the Tour plays each year.
Barnes forged a 5-under-par 67 to jump into a one-stroke lead at 11-under-par 205 after the third round of the Valero Texas Open, played in sunny and windy conditions Saturday at the demanding Oaks Course at TPC San Antonio.
Barnes leads first- and second-round leader Brendan Steele ,who is at 10-under 206 after an even-par 72 on Saturday, by a stroke, with England’s Luke Donald (4-under 68) and Charley Hoffman (2-under 70) two back at 9-under 207.
Patrick Reed is three shots in arrears at 8-under 208 after a 2-under 70 in the third round while Billy Horschel, Canada’s Nick Taylor, Chad Collins, Ireland’s Padraig Harrington, Martin Pillar and Jon Curran are all at 7-under 209.
Sixteen players ended the third round within five strokes of the lead. Taylor and Aaron Baddeley had the rounds’ best scores by fashioning 6-under-par 66s.
Barnes is best known for finishing second in the 2009 U.S. Open at Bethpage Black and for being married to pro beach volleyball player Suzanne Stonebarger.
At the 2009 U.S. Open, Barnes set the 36-hole scoring record after shooting an 8-under 132 through the first two rounds in soft, rainy conditions. Early in the third round, he became only the fourth player ever to reach double-digits under par. Barnes, however, suffered a collapse in the final round, shooting a 76 (6-over) and tied for second, two shots behind winner Lucas Glover.
“This is why you play the game, right? Coming in Sundays and having a chance to win,” Barnes said. “It’s been awhile since I’ve been with a 54-hole lead by myself. I’ve been working hard and fighting every bit of the way and things are starting to pay off. This is kind of the results so far for all the hard work.
Barnes has posted big wins before, just not at the highest level as a pro. In 2002, he won the 102nd U.S. Amateur, defeating Hunter Mahan 2 & 1 in the final. Barnes and Mahan would share the 2003 Ben Hogan Award as top collegiate men’s golfer and would lead the United States to victory at the 2002 Eisenhower Trophy.
In 2003, Barnes was the low amateur at The Masters, where he finished 21st after outscoring his playing partner, Tiger Woods, by seven shots in the opening round.
“I’d be lying if I would say it was a successful career being out here 14 years without a win,” Barnes added. “Winning is why we come out every week to compete. We just don’t come out here to compete and finish. Hopefully tomorrow will erase that.”
Barnes, who is ranked 262nd in the world and is winless in 14 seasons on the PGA Tour, has one top-10 finish this season (when he was ninth last week at the RBC Heritage) and has been in the Top 25 three times in the 2016 campaign.
He had seven birdies and two bogeys on his round. Barnes hit just seven of 14 fairways and 11 of 18 greens, with an average distance on his first putt of 33 feet from the hole.
Barnes could have enjoyed an even bigger lead except for a two-shot swing on the par-5 18th hole.
Coming off a birdie on the par-4 17th, Barnes pulled his 3-metal on his tee shot into the deep native grass off and was 35 yards short of the putting surface on his approach shot after he punched out into the fairway on his second. He eventually bogeyed the hole after missing an 11-foot putt for par.
Steele, the 2011 winner of this event, struggled off the tee through the entire round and didn’t have a birdie until the 14th hole. He added a second one on the 18th, tapping in a two-foot putt after almost holing his 80-yard approach in get back to within one stroke. The two birdies balanced two bogeys on his card.
“I didn’t get off to a very good start but I was able to hit enough good shots and enough good recovery shots to not make many mistakes,” Steele said. “Today’s round really tested my patience.
“I’ve been really working hard on trying to be more into every shot. I need to look at each individual shot goes rather than the whole day and having to press and kind of get back into the tournament. So I was really happy with how I did it today.”
There have not been co-leaders at the Valero Texas Open after three rounds since 1993 when Jay Haas, Bob Lohr, Tom Lehman and Dan Forsman shared the lead at Oak Hills. Haas would go on to win the tournament on the second playoff hole against Lohr.
Sixty-six players made the third-round cut. Reed, a San Antonio native, became the first player of the week to hit the par-5 18th in two. He would two-putt for birdie to get to 8-under through 54 holes and within three shots of the lead.
Top Image: Ricky Barnes tees off on the eighth hole during the third round of the Valero Texas Open at TPC San Antonio AT&T Oaks Course on April 23, 2016 in San Antonio, Texas. (Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images)