Simon Miller put together three straight under-par rounds in last year’s Albuquerque City Golf Championship.
But, he didn’t have a sniff of the lead.
Miller, 26, a two-time New Mexico boys state champion at Albuquerque Academy, remained a study of consistency Saturday at Arroyo del Oso Golf Course.
And this time, that metronomic style of play is paying off for Miller.
In the tournament’s 78th iteration, Miller fashioned his second straight 4-under-par 68 in windy, cooler conditions over Arroyo del Oso’s undulating layout for sole possession of the lead.
Miller edged first-round leader Alejandro Armijo by one shot, while last year’s runner-up, James Gehrke, is tied for third with Eric Frazier seven shots off Miller’s pace.
“I actually played really good last year, but the scores were so low, I wasn’t even close,” Miller said after his bogey-free round. “I mean, I played well the past two days. I didn’t have any bogeys today, and I think that was pretty surprising because it doesn’t happen very often.”
Armijo, 19, was poised to at least share the lead heading into Sunday’s final round at Los Altos, which is scheduled to start at 9:30 a.m., and the leaders going off at 10:15. And, if the golfing gods were smiling a little more, he could have staked himself to a two- or three-shot lead.
“It was a grind,” Armijo said after a 2-under-par 70. “I was hitting good shots and hitting good putts. If I hit a bad putt, I would have been frustrated. But I was making solid strokes and rolling it just fine. I was just waiting for something to click.”
The sophomore-to-be at NCAA Division II Oklahoma Christian just missed getting up-and-down for birdie on the par-5 15th, had a hard lip-out for birdie on 16, and burned the edge of the cup for birdie on 17.
He tugged his second shot into the left greenside bunker on 18, and failed to get up and down making his lone bogey of the day.
“With the weather, I was quite happy how I handled the back nine,” said Armijo, who graduated from Cleveland. “The front nine, the ball striking was just off. I didn’t put the ball anywhere close to the hole (for birdie), but was making some clutch two-putts for par…it was there, and I gave myself chances on the back nine. I figured out the ball striking and settled down. Overall, it was a pretty solid round.”
Miller had nowhere near the ball-striking conundrum as Armijo. By his count, Miller hit nearly every green in regulation with only two up-and-downs required – on 10 and 18 – to preserve an unblemished scorecard.
“Honestly, with golf, you never know what you’re going to get,” Miller said. “You hit it good some days, and some days it’s bad. Today was a good day.”
Miller missed the green on the par-4 10th, but got up and down, promptly birdied the par-five 11th, then cruised along with five pars in a row before coming to the difficult par-four 17th.
“The wind was really starting to pick up on 17 and 18,” Miller said. “I rolled in about a 20- to 25-footer for birdie (on 17), and I kind of felt like I stole one there. Then I made a clutch 6-footer for par on 18. Other than that, it was a stress-free round. I was hitting good shots, and had easy two-putts all day.”
While Armijo dropped out of first place, he said he told his caddie (John Gallegos) that his primary goal was to be “right there” heading into the final round.
“We did that today,” Armijo said. “…I like where I’m at going into (Sunday).”
Updated tournament scoring and tee times are available at gamgc.golfgenius.com.