Columbus, OH – With most of the field in full retreat, South African native Richard Sterne figured a solid score in Saturday’s third round of the Nationwide Children’s Hospital Championship would move him up the leaderboard.
Sterne was right. He started the day nine shots off the pace but a solid, 4-under 67 eventually moved the 32-year old into a tie for the 54-hole lead. Sterne finished early in the day with a 5-under 208 total, a full 75 minutes in front of the final pairing.
With the rough growing and a cool wind blowing, the already difficult Ohio State University Scarlet course got even tougher. The majority of the leaders struggled to make par, let alone birdie. Saturday’s scoring average of 73.754 (+2.754) made it the single-toughest round on the Web.com Tour this year.
First- and second-round leader Derek Fathauer (pictured by Getty Images) battled his way to a 5-over 76, which was still good enough to give him a share of the lead along with playing partner Justin Thomas (72).
Texan Tom Hoge (67), Blayne Barber (70) and Vaughn Taylor (74) share fourth place, just one shot back. Whee Kim (67) and Stonebrae Classic champion Tony Finau (72) are only two strokes behind the trio of leaders.
“It’s firming up. The greens are getting firm, so you can’t get close,” said Sterne, who ran off four birdies in a five-hole stretch on the front nine to get into contention. “You are struggling to make pars out there if you don’t do the right things.”
His driver, 6-iron combination at the par-5, 12th hole was as good as it gets. Sterne needed only to knock in a 3-foot putt for eagle, which gave him sole possession of the lead at 6-under, until a bogey three holes later.
Sterne, who had surgery to repair a torn labrum in March, managed to save par on his final two holes and post his 67, matching low round of the day.
Of the 11 groups that started their rounds on No. 1 – play was in threesomes off the 1st and 10th tees – Sterne and Barber (70) were the only two players to break par (71).
“Anytime you get 15-20 mile an hour winds, and especially with these conditions, it’s tough,” said Thomas, who missed an 8-foot birdie putt on the final hole that would have given him the outright lead. “You really have to control your flight. Here, because you have to play the bounces so much and the contours in the greens, you have to be in the right places. It was just really difficult to be committed to every shot.”
Fathauer managed to hit only six fairways and eight greens in the wind, but still has a piece of the lead.
“The greens were really fast and kind of crusty around the holes. They were tough to make putts,” he said. “It’s as tough as you can get right now. It’s almost impossible to get your ball close. You’ve got to make some putts to shoot anything near even-par out there.”
* Fourth-round play will be in twosomes off the 1st tee. Times will run from 7:21 a.m. to 12:25 p.m. with an expected finish time of 4:30 p.m.
* Just over a year ago Richard Sterne was playing on the International team at the 2013 Presidents Cup which was played nearby at Muirfield Village. However, 2014 has been frustrating for the player currently ranked 82nd in the World Golf Rankings. Shortly after finishing T4 at the World Golf Championship-Cadillac Championship last March, Sterne decided to have surgery on his left sternum which had been troubling him for the previous seven months. After missing four months following March surgery in Vail, he returned to action at The Open Championship (MC) and subsequently made three more starts on the PGA TOUR, making the cut in each one, including a T35 finish at the PGA Championship.
* Richard Sterne was one of three players who posted the day’s low round of 4-under-par 67. The South African native posted a 4-under-par 67 which allowed him to move from a T20 to a tie for first place heading into the final round. Sterne was T59 after Thursday’s opening round.
* Richard Sterne (82nd) is just one of five players in the field who are ranked in the top 150 in the World Golf Rankings. In addition, Branden Grace is 113th, Roberto Castro is 122nd, Carlos Ortiz is 126th and David Lingmerth is 143rd.
* Richard Sterne owns eight international victories, including three on the European Tour.
* In addition to Richard Sterne’s 67, Whee Kim and Tom Hoge also matched his 4-under-par effort.
* The field averaged 73.754 on Saturday and increase from Friday’s average of 72.975. Only four players posted rounds in the 60s – Tom Hoge, Richard Sterne, Whee Kim and J.J. Henry and only 11 players bettered par on the cool, windy day in Columbus. Just two players shot an even-par 71.
* Of the 33 players who teed off on No. 1 in Round Three, only two players bettered par – Richard Sterne (67) and Blayne Barber (70).
* Of the three players currently tied for first place, only Richard Sterne has won on the PGA Tour or an international event. Justin Thomas’ best showing since turning professional was a second place at this year’s El Bosque Mexico Championship and Derek Fathauer’s best finish was a playoff loss at this year’s Nova Scotia Open.
* Birdies were a rarity on hole No. 5 on Saturday. The only player to make a birdie was Doug LaBelle II. It was almost similar on Nos. 11 and 14. There were just two birdies on each during the round.
* None of the 66 players in today’s starting field posted a bogey-free round.
* Vaughn Taylor, who is just one stroke back, leads all players in greens in regulation after 54 holes. Taylor has hit 43 of 54 for 79.6%. He has hit 16 of 18 the last two days
* Tony Finau was credited with a 409-yard drive on No. 12 on Saturday. That is the longest measured drive on the Web.com Tour this year. Franklin Corpening was credited with a 402-yarder at the Midwest Classic (#13, Rd. 2) and Korbin Kuehn had a 400-yarder on the same hole the same day. Finau’s drive was also the longest on Tour since Cody Slover had a 444-yarder at the 2011 Midwest Classic.
* Derek Fathauer leads all players with 14 birdies, while Andrew Loupe, Richard Sterne and Justin Thomas all have 13.
* Byron Smith was forced to withdraw after eight holes on Saturday due to a back injury.
* Adam Hadwin (T43), winner of last week’s Chiquita Classic, posted scores of 71-72-70—213 (E) and heads into the final round T14 and five shots off the pace.
* Best rounds of the day:
67 – Richard Sterne, Tom Hoge, Whee Kim
69 – J.J. Henry
* Scoring Averages for the week:
Front (36) Back (35) Total (71)
R1 36.087 35.278 71.365
R2 36.803 36.172 72.975
R3 36.969 36.785 73.754
* NEXT WEEK: The Web.com Tour heads to Ponte Vedra Beach, FL, for the season-ending Web.com Tour Championship at TPC Sawgrass. The tournament will be held at the Dye’s Valley Course Sept. 18-21. At the conclusion of 72 holes, the Web.com Tour will hand out a total of 50 PGA TOUR cards for the upcoming 2014-15 season, which begins in October. Last year, Chesson Hadley fired a 1-under 69 in the final round to win by two strokes over Brad Fritsch, Scott Gardiner, John Peterson and Brendon Todd. Hadley’s win was his second of the year (Rex Hospital Open) and the first-place check of $180,000 moved him up to No. 3 on the Final Priority Ranking. John Peterson was the overall winner in the Finals thanks to four top-5 finishes and edged out Hadley for honors by $567.
Source: PGA Tour