Newburgh, Ind. – Mark Hubbard (pictured by Getty Images) normally likes to check the electronic leaderboards when he’s playing but Saturday’s third round of the United Leasing Championship presented by PTI had him focused and he never bothered to look. It wasn’t until he finished a nearly-perfect, 4-under 68 did he find out from the media interviewing him that he had moved into the 54 hole lead at Victoria National Golf Club.
Hubbard, 25, posted an 11-under 209 total that put him two strokes in front of 36-hole leader Tony Finau (72) and three ahead of Colombia’s Andres Echavarria (70).
“I looked at nine and that was the last time,” said Hubbard. “It was more of a grind today. I really got into a good rhythm with my driver on the back nine.”
Hubbard charged to the front by picking conservative targets and making aggressive swings.
“I think there are so many places around this course where you can get into big trouble,” Hubbard said after hitting 15 greens in regulation. “You’re risking double or triple bogeys. We had a game plan at the beginning of the day and we stuck to it. There are a lot of holes out here where the risk isn’t worth the reward.”
Hubbard two-putted the par-5, 10th hole for birdie and smacked a driver on the shortened par-4, 12th and needed only two putts from the front fringe for another birdie.
The San Jose State grad then rolled in a 35-footer that went over a hump and down a hill at the difficult 14th to put him at 12-under and in front of Finau, who was playing in the final group for the first time and doing his best to control his emotions.
Hubbard’s only mistake was a three-putt bogey at the par-3, 16th that cut his lead over Finau to one at the time.
“I hit three good shots there and putted the ball exactly how and where I wanted,” said the leader.
Finau was hanging tough in the group behind Hubbard but admittedly made a couple of bad swings down the stretch. A pushed 3-wood found the fescue grass on the par-5, 15th and cost him a bogey. Then a slight pull at the par-3, 16th wound up in a water hazard and resulted in a double bogey that dropped him three off the pace.
“I didn’t make that bad a swing but the wind pushed it a little bit and that was it,” he said. “Those were a couple of key errors.”
A little hot under the collar, the big-hitting Finau gambled with a driver and cut the corner at the 17th and was only 100 yards from the flag on the 454-yard dogleg right. A perfect wedge still left him 15 feet away but he coaxed the putt into the hole for a solid bounce back birdie.
“That was huge,” he said afterwards. “I was taking a chance but I knew I was right in the thick of it.”
Finau added a nice up-and-down at 18, closing with a 7-foot, downhill slider for par to remain within striking distance.
“Those last two holes really changed the momentum for me,” he said. “The wheels were starting to come off there at the end.”
Four players – Paul Claxton (66), Matt Weibring (68), Matt Davidson (69) and Chris Smith (71) will start the final round at 7-under and four back of Hubbard.
“At the beginning of the day I had a number in mind,” he said. “I thought 11 today and 15 on Sunday, so that’s 68-68. If I can get there and somebody manages to beat me, then I’ll congratulate them and move on.”
THIRD ROUND NOTES:
* Due to forecasted afternoon storms, Sunday’s play will be in threesomes off the 1st and 10th tees. Times will run from 7:48-10:00 a.m. with an expected finish time of approximately 3:00 p.m.
* Mark Hubbard is a 25-year old rookie on Tour this year. Hubbard was born in Denver but now calls San Jose, CA, home. He is a 2011 graduate of San Jose State University.
* Hubbard has made eight cuts in 12 starts this year and has four top-10 finishes but none better than a T8 at the Panama Claro Championship. He entered the week No. 20 on the money list.
* Hubbard was a member of PGA TOUR Canada last year and finished No. 3 on the 2013 Order of Merit. Hubbard made the cut in eight of his nine starts and collected a win at the Wildfire Invitational in early September.
* This is the first time that Hubbard has held/shared the lead in any single round on the Web.com Tour. His previous best standing after 54 holes was a T5 position at the Panama Claro Championship, where he finished T8.
* Tony Finau, 24, was born and raised in Utah.
* Finau is making his 18th career start and his 13th this season. He has now made 10 cuts in 13 starts, and nine in a row. He came into the week No. 37 on the money list. Finau made single starts in 2006 (am), 2007, 2010, 2011 and 2012.
* Finau played on PGA Tour Canada in 2013, making seven cuts in eight starts. He wound up No. 29 on the Order of Merit and his best finish was a T5 at the ATB Financial Classic.
* Finau’s career-best finish on Tour is a T4 at the 2014 Rex Hospital Open.
* Andres Echavarria is a 26-year old graduate of the University of Florida (2011). He was born and raised in Medellin, Colombia.
* Echavarria is now in his third full season on the Web.com Tour. His best finish was a runner-up effort at the 2011 Chitimacha Louisiana Open when he was playing as an amateur and completing his college degree.
* Echavarria has made seven cuts in 12 previous starts this year. He has four top-25 finishes and entered the week No. 60 on the money list.
* Smith, 45, was born and raised in Indiana. He now calls Peru, IN (near Ft. Wayne) home. Smith received a sponsor exemption into the field this week. This is only his second start of the year – he missed the cut at the Panama Claro Championship.
* Smith has five career victories on the Web.com Tour and one win in 314 career starts on the PGA TOUR (2002 Buick Classic).
* Smith’s last top-10 on any Tour was a T4 at the 2009 South Georgia Classic.
* Sebastian Cappelen, winner of last week’s Air Capital Classic in Wichita, Kan., shot a 3-over 75 Saturday and fell into a tie for 40th place.
* Paul Claxton, 46, birdied the final hole Saturday for a 6-under 66 which moved him into a tie for fourth place. Claxton is coming off a T5 at last week’s Air Capital Classic.
* Peter Tomasulo, a playoff winner of the inaugural event in 2012, posted a 5-under 67 that moved him into contention. Tomasulo hit 17 of 18 greens in regulation today. The former champion has struggled on the greens with 29, 31 and 31 putts over the first three rounds. He enters the final round T8.
* Justin Thomas moved into contention early in his third round and was 6-under through 12 holes and 9-under for the tournament. Thomas stumbled with a double bogey at No. 15 and a bogey at No. 16. He finished with a 3-under 69 and is T9 heading into Sunday’s finale.
* Justin Thomas is a 21-year old rookie from Goshen, KY, a suburb of Louisville (approximately 130 miles away).
* Thomas has made the cut in nine of 10 prior starts this year and has seven top-25 finishes. His best weeks to date are a runner-up effort at the Mexico Championship and a T5 at the Pacific Rubiales Colombia Championship. He entered the week No. 7 on the money list. Thomas held/shared the first and second round leads in both of those events.
* Thomas’ round of 69 today is his ninth straight sub-par score.
* Thomas’ round of 69 today gives him par-or-better scores in 38 of 40 rounds this year. His only two above-par rounds were both 1-over par scores – 71 in R3 of the Panama Claro Championship and 73 in R3 of the WNB Golf Classic.
* Thomas has been under par in each of his first 10 starts on Tour this year and is now a collective 77-under par for the year.
* Thomas ranks in the top-10 in 14 of 29 statistical categories on Tour. He is No. 2 in the All-Around category and No. 2 in Scoring Avg. Before the Cut. He is also No. 9 in Avg. Driving Distance (306.5), No. 7 in Putting Avg., No. 7 in Birdie Avg., No. 7 in Scoring Avg. (69.24) and No. 5 in Total Birdies.
* The first twosome of Roger Sloan (69) and Tag Ridings (67) finished play in just under four hours. Sloan was the last player to make the cut – he was in the final group Friday evening and birdied Nos. 8 and 9 in order to make the cut on the number.
* Low rounds of the day:
66 – Paul Claxton
67 – Tag Ridings, Peter Tomasulo
* There are a half dozen Web.com Tour pros with regional ties this week:
Chris Baker Seymour, IN 72-72-72—214 (E) T48
Derek Fathauer U. of Louisville 74-71-73—218 (+2) T66
Adam Hadwin U. of Louisville 68-71-73—212 (-4) T14
Justin Thomas Goshen, KY 70-71-69—210 (-6) T8
Steve Wheatcroft Indiana University 72-77—149 (+5) m/c
Chase Wright Indiana University 73-70-70—213 (-3) T25
* Scoring averages for the week:
Front (36) Back (36) Total (72)
R1 36.942 36.897 73.839
R2 35.860 36.427 72.287
R3 35.770 36.311 72.081
NEXT WEEK: The Web.com Tour travels to Canada for the inaugural Nova Scotia Open. The tournament will be played at Ashburn Golf Club (June 30-July 6), which is just outside of Halifax.
THIRD-ROUND GOLF LEADERBOARD
1. Mark Hubbard 205 (-11)
2. Tony Finau 207 (-9)
3. Andres Echavarria 208 (-8)
4. Paul Claxton 209 (-7)
4. Matt Weibring 209 (-7)
4. Matt Davidson 209 (-7)
4. Chris Smith 209 (-7)
Source: PGA Tour