SANDY, Utah—Even after signing his scorecard after a third-round, 6-under 65, Andres Gonzales (pictured by Getty Images) didn’t know where he stood on the Utah Championship leaderboard. He knew he held the lead. He just didn’t know by how much.
In case you’re reading, Andres, you’re ahead of Aaron Goldberg by four shots.
Gonzales’ seven-birdie, one-bogey performance at Willow Creek Country Club on Saturday put him in position for a wire-to-wire victory and his second overall Web.com Tour win. Gonzales also won the 2012 Soboba Golf Classic in California.
“I haven’t looked at a leaderboard all week. I’m just trying to put up some numbers,” Gonzales said after his round but knowing he would be taking a lead into Sunday. “I’m playing steady. It’s just a matter of sticking to the gameplan and doing the same thing”
Gonzales started his round quickly, recording a birdie at No. 1. However he only made the turn at 1-under. He began pulling away on the back nine, with a scorecard that included five birdies and four pars on his way to a 5-under 31.
Two years ago, Gonzales was chasing close friend and fellow Washingtonian Michael Putnam at the Utah Championship. However he was never able to put pressure on Putnam. Gonzales, who began that final round two years ago tied for third, eventually settled for a tie for ninth. Now it’s Goldberg and a trio of players—Jeff Curl, Travis Bertoni and Sung Kang, all five shots back—who are chasing Gonzales.
Goldberg, who fired a 7-under 64 Saturday, was particularly pleased with his play. “I’ve felt like this has been coming,” he said of his round. “My game has been good all year. I haven’t been getting the results, but then I played well last week (tied for seventh at the Nova Scotia Open).”
Goldberg began his round with three consecutive birdies, two coming on par-5s. “You really have to be 2-under through those first three holes because the par-5s are playing pretty easy,” he said. “You have to take advantage of them.”
The round of the day belonged to Jeff Curl, who is coming off back-to-back missed cuts on the Web.com Tour and a missed cut at the PGA TOUR’s Greenbrier Classic last week in West Virginia. He shot a 63, punctuated by a 10-foot birdie putt on the 18th hole. Despite shooting opening rounds of 69-67 to open the tournament, Curl made a dramatic switch Friday night, changing both the loft and the grip on his putter. “I put more loft on it, it’s more upright now. And I put a big, fat grip on it, the biggest one you can get,” Curl said.
The Mr. Fix-It Job apparently worked—sort of. While he lipped out for eagle from three feet on No. 10, he made a 45-foot birdie putt on the next hole in what he calls “the longest putt I’ve made in two years.”
In all, Curl estimates his birdie putts totaled 141 feet—while he noted he missed a 30-foot birdie putt on No. 9 that sat on the lip but didn’t drop.
It’s Gonzales’ tournament through 54 holes, though. “I really enjoy playing in Utah. With this altitude, I can bomb it out here,” he added. “I’m having fun. I’ve had good fan support this week. It’s been a pleasure having everybody out.”
He also doesn’t plan on making any changes. When asked if he planned to do any homework overnight or work on his swing, he said, “No, I’m going to go have a beer. Or two.”
Andres Gonzales’ breakdown at Willow Creek this week is as follows:
Par 3s 5-under
Par 4s 2-under
Par 5s 12-under
Andres Gonzales’ 19-under score of 194 ties the 54-hole mark set a year ago by Chad Collins.
Aaron Goldberg has recorded seven consecutive rounds in the 60s at the Utah Championship. He shot rounds of 69-67-66-66 on his way to a tie for 18th in 2013. This week he’s shot 67-67-64. The 64 is his career-low round at Willow Creek.
The last time there wasn’t an 18-hole round of at least 62 at some point during the Utah Championship came in 2010 when Bradley Iles’ 8-under 63 was the low score for the week. Since then, there have been four 62s, two 61s, one 60 and one 59 at Willow Creek Country Club.
Willow Creek Country Club is using a par-3 18th hole for the eighth consecutive year. This is the 13th time overall that a Web.com Tour event has had a par-3 18th hole. The first came at the Elizabethtown Open (Kentucky) in 1990 and 1991. Bright’s Creek Golf Course in Mill Spring, N.C., ended with a par 3 for three years (2009-11) when it was a host course of the BMW Charity Pro-Am. Here is how the 18th hole at Willow Creek Country Club has played vs. the other 18th holes on the Web.com Tour since 2007.
|Year||Stroke Average||Ranking Among Web.com Tour 18th Holes|
|2007||3.000||No. 19 of 34|
|2008||3.110||No. 13 of 33|
|2009||3.113||No. 10 of 32|
|2010||3.088||No. 12 of 32|
|2011||2.998||No. 12 of 28|
|2012||3.049||No. 13 of 29|
|2013||2.968||No. 16 of 27|
Bogey-free rounds (30)
First Round (13): Travis Bertoni, Gavin Coles, Derek Fathauer, Andres Gonzales, Jason Gore, Tom Hoge, Sung Kang, Skip Kendall, Justin Lower, Paul Peterson, Martin Piller, Nick Rousey, Steve Wheatcroft
Second Round (15): Blayne Barber, Ryan Blaum, Cam Burke, Max Homa, Mark Hubbard,Kevin Kim, Whee Kim, Colt Knost, Kevin Lucas, Bill Lunde, Alexandre Rocha, Steve Saunders, Vaughn Taylor, Peter Tomasulo, Steve Wheatcroft
Third Round (2): Vince India, Chase Wright
|Andres Gonzales||62-67-65—194 (-19)|
|Aaron Goldberg||67-67-64—198 (-15)|
|Jeff Curl||69-67-63—199 (-14)|
|Travis Bertoni||68-63-68—199 (-14)|
|Sung Kang||67-65-67—199 (-14)|
|Bhavik Patel||66-66-68—200 (-13)|
|Tony Finau||65-67-68—200 (-13)|
|Jose Toledo||66-66-68—200 (-13)|
Source: PGA TOUR