Co-leader draws strength from condition

FORT WORTH, Texas -- Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial co-leader Bryce Molder was under close observation Saturday as the gallery cheered him on to a record nine consecutive one-putts in a third-round 67. But most fans probably didn't notice what sets him apart.

Molder was born with Poland Syndrome, a rare defect that is characterized by underdevelopment or absence of a pectoral muscle. Molder's left hand is smaller than his right, his left arm is about an inch shorter than his right and he's missing a left chest muscle.

But the 31-year-old said golf has a way of displaying his strengths, not his condition.

"Early on, I didn't like it because you don't want to be different when you're 10 years old and playing soccer with shirts and skins, and you're just hoping you don't have to take your shirt off," Molder said. "Golf helped a lot because I had some confidence behind, 'Well hey, I'm a little different, but I'm playing a sport.'"

Molder turned pro in 2001, and the Arizona native won more than $1 million for the first time in his career in 2009. He tied for second in the St. Jude Classic last year, and his last top-10 finish this year was in the Shell Houston Open, where he tied for eighth.

His clubs have only slightly altered grips, and his swing is a little right-side dominant, but other than that, Molder can't really envision what would change about his swing had he been born without Poland Syndrome. He simply knows what has always worked and been a constant truth for him.

"The best way I can put it is it's all I've known," Molder said. "It's just like a tall person is going to swing differently than somebody short, everybody has their little idiosyncrasies, [but] mine are a little bit more obvious."

If Molder is self-conscious about his condition, he certainly doesn't show it. He has a tendency to hide his smaller left hand slightly when talking to a crowd, but as a young girl reached across the ropes for a fist bump just before the 18th tee, Molder happily returned it with his left fist before perfectly placing his tee shot on the fairway.

This weekend, the only thing that has made Molder stand out is his game.

He is tied for the tournament lead at 16 under after going 3 under Saturday. He said he feels good about his chances Sunday despite fighting off a slight cold this weekend.

"I've got one goal, and that's just to play [Sunday] like I played the first couple days and even today," Molder said. "The execution comes and goes, but if mentally I can get out there and have some fun, try to hit some shots and be aggressive on the shots I decide to hit, it'll be fine."

Molder was remarkably consistent in the third round, with four birdies in the first nine holes. He began his streak of nine one-putts on the second hole and carried it all the way through the 10th despite a double bogey on the fifth hole.

His second shot traveled out of bounds. After his drop, Molder put his third shot to the far side of the green. He finally put himself on the green with his fifth shot, before sinking the putt on his sixth.

Molder said the 16-foot putt gave him a boost.

"To see a putt go in after such a bad hole certainly helped, and the putts after that were just as important," Molder said. "I knew I just needed to steady the ship a little bit."

He'll be trying to secure his first PGA Tour victory Sunday, but Molder said Saturday he'll be watching his favorite NBA team, the Phoenix Suns, and relaxing.

Sunday will be anything but relaxing, but Molder has used golf to cope before and will do it again.

"Once tomorrow starts, once you hit your first tee shot, that's the easy part," Molder said.

Josh Davis is an ESPNDallas.com intern and a writer for TCU's student newspaper, the Daily Skiff.