Australian lefty Greg Chalmers (pictured by Getty Images) fired a 5-under 67 Saturday and moved into the 54-hole lead at the Chiquita Classic, the second of four Finals events on the Web.com Tour.
Chalmers chalked up five birdies on his first seven holes and then closed with two more over his final four at River Run Country Club, which put him at 15-under par and one stroke in front of Canada’s Adam Hadwin (67).
“I really didn’t look at a leadboard until about 13 and then coming down 18,” said Chalmers. “I really wanted to be in the last group and know where I was.”
At the end of the day Chalmers finds his name at the top of a deep leaderboard. His lead is one over Hadwin, winner of the Chile Classic in early March, two over John Peterson (68) and three over Scott Pinckney (70).
Four others – Heath Slocum (64), James Nitties (68), Tom Hoge (69) and Charlotte-area resident Kyle Riefers (70) – are at 11-under and four off the pace heading into Sunday’s chase for the $180,000 first-place check. Another six are at 10-under and just five back.
“It’s kind of new to me I guess,” said the 40-year old leader. “To be honest I can’t tell you the last time I led going into Sunday and I’ve been playing as a pro for 20 years.”
This is the fourth time that Chalmers has been a 54-hole leader in 84 career starts on the Web.com Tour. He has made 362 career starts on the PGA TOUR but has never held the lead at this point in a tournament.
“I just want to experience it and do it. I think if you want to eventually be successful on the PGA TOUR you’ve got to get used to dealing with these kinds of things and being in the fishbowl of the last group or the guy that’s leading the tournament,” he said. “Every experience is new and we’re going to find out a couple of things about me tomorrow.”
At stake for Chalmers is a guaranteed return to the PGA TOUR, where he’s been for a total of 13 years. The top-25 money winners in the Finals will get TOUR cards for the 2014-15 season and a winner’s check would probably land him in the top-5 when it’s all said and done.
Chalmers wasn’t too precise with his driver (he missed half of the 14 fairways) but had enough accuracy with his irons (12 of 18 greens) and rolled in enough putts to chalk up eight birdies on the day and assume control of things.
“The difference between the putts rolling in and the putts shaving the edge is the difference in your score every time,” said Chalmers. “I rolled the ball beautifully today.”
Hadwin jumped into the fray with four birdies in his first six holes and added another at the ninth, giving him possession of the lead. Unfortunately that was about it for the former Louisville Cardinal.
“It was a great round. One bogey on a Saturday on moving day to put myself in good position,” he said. “I got a little out of rhythm on the back. I had two real good looks at birdie there on 14 and 16 but I just didn’t hit them hard enough.”
THIRD ROUND NOTES:
* Saturday weather: Partly cloudy. Wind SW 6-12 mph. High of 89.
* Final round play will be threesomes off No. 1 and 10 tee from 8:40 a.m. to 10:40 a.m. The expected finish time is 3:45 p.m. ET.
* Greg Chalmers is in search of his third win on Tour and first since the 2010 Henrico County Open.
* This is the fourth time that Chalmers has led/co-led after 54 holes of a Tour event. Chalmers held the outright lead at the 2005 Albertson Boise Open and carded a 69 to go into extra holes. He then defeated Danny Ellis with a birdie on the first playoff hole. Two times Chalmers was tied for the lead entering the final round and finished T15 at the 2007 WNB Golf Classic and T5 at the 2008 El Bosque Mexico Championship.
* Left-handed professionals have accounted for nine Tour victories, most recently Edward Loar’s triumph at the 2013 Chitimacha Louisiana Open.
* A closer look at Chalmers’ stats through 54 holes:
Score Fairways GIR Putts
R1 69 7 of 14 16 of 18 34
R2 65 6 of 14 14 of 18 26
R3 67 7 of 14 12 of 18 27
* Chalmers’ final-round scoring average this season on the PGA TOUR was 71.64. His scoring average on the Web.com Tour with the lead/co-lead is 72.67.
* International players have racked up 10 wins in 22 Web.com Tour events this season. With a victory on Sunday Chalmers would become the second Australian to triumph this year. Cameron Percy won the Price Cutter Charity Championship in Springfield, Mo., last month.
* Adam Hadwin finds himself in great position to pick up his second trophy on Tour this season after a 67 in the third round. In March, Hadwin held a one-stroke lead after 54 holes of the Chile Classic. He carded a 69 in the final round to earn his first victory on Tour.
* Hadwin’s final round scoring average in 2014 is 69.58.
* On Sunday, John Peterson has a chance to earn his first victory on Tour in his 22nd start. Peterson held a share of the 54-hole lead at the 2013 Chiquita Classic and carded a final round 71 that dropped him to T3.
* Last year Peterson managed to finish No. 1 in the Finals without winning an event:
Hotel Fitness Championship — T5
Chiquita Classic – T3
Nationwide Children’s Hospital Championship – 3
Web.com Tour Championship – T2
* Peterson’s final round scoring average in the Finals last year was 67.00. His average on Sunday’s this season on TOUR was 71.17.
* In 21 starts on Tour this season Pinckney has recorded two top-10 performances at the Chile Classic (T6) and the (T5) WinCo Foods Portland Open. In the final round of both tournaments Pinckney carded an even-par score.
* Pinckney’s final round scoring average this year on Tour is 71.17.
* Heath Slocum started the day T38 and moved up to T5 with a third-round 64. Slocum has won four times on the PGA TOUR, most recently at The McGladrey Classic in 2010. This season on TOUR in 23 starts Slocum made 12 cuts with his best finish coming at the Wyndham Championship (4). Last year Slocum fired a final round 66 at River Run to finish T8 and went on to regain his playing privileges on TOUR.
* In 2001, Slocum became the second player in Web.com Tour history to earn a three-win promotion to the PGA TOUR. In his first Tour victory at the Cleveland Open in 2001 Slocum trailed Ryuji Imada by three after 54 holes, fired a final-round 68, and won by one stroke.
* Veteran Doug LaBelle II ran into some trouble on the 548-yard closing hole. His tee shot on the par-5 found the water that guards the right side of the fairway. He then knocked three consecutive balls into the water, which runs in front of the green.
“I did everything I could on that hole,” said LaBelle, who had 210 yards to the pin for his approach shot. “I hit the wrong shot at the wrong time.”
LaBelle’s first attempt was with a 3-iron, but he caught it heavy and the ball never cleared the hazard. He switched to a 5-wood and was trying to hit a high fade onto the green but instead wound up hitting three consecutive pull hooks.
“I hit a number of bad shots on the same hole,” he said afterward. “There’s nothing you can do at that point but laugh about it.”
LaBelle’s ninth shot nestled up against the face of a greenside bunker, which forced him to “top it back into the middle” of the bunker. He then blasted out and two-putted for an 8-over-par 13 on the hole.
“It’s just golf,” laughed LaBelle. “In the big picture, if that’s the biggest thing I have to worry about today then it’s a good day.”
LaBelle finished with an 11-over 83.
* Bogey-free rounds this week:
R1 63 – Adam Hadwin; 65 – John Peterson; 69 – Henrik Norlander; 71—Chad Collins
R2 63 – Tom Hoge; 65 – Greg Chalmers; 66 – Derek Fathauer, Sam Saunders; 68 – Tyrone van Aswegen
R3 64 – Heath Slocum; 67 – Peter Tomasulo, Will Wilcox; 68 – Ryan Blaum; Johnson Wagner, James Nitties; 69 – Aron Price, Tom Hoge
* Scoring Averages for the week:
Front (36) Back (36) Total (72)
R1 35.307 36.102 71.409
R2 35.183 36.125 71.308
R3 34.855 35.895 70.750
* NEXT WEEK: The Web.com Tour moves to Columbus, Ohio for the Nationwide Children’s Hospital Championship at the Ohio State University Scarlet Course Sept. 8-14. Last year, Korea’s Seung-Yul Noh put on a dominating performance and distanced the field by five shots. Noh grabbed a two-shot lead after 36 holes and led by three after 54. His final-round 69 put him at 12-under par and well in front of runner-up Edward Loar, who carded a 65 in Sunday’s finale.