Australia’s Nick Flanagan fired a 2-under-par 69 Saturday to move into sole possession of the 54-hole lead at the Nationwide Children’s Hospital Invitational. Flanagan stumbled with a double bogey on his next-to-last hole, but still managed to post a 7-under 206 total after three rounds at the Ohio State University’s Scarlet Course, good for a one-stroke lead over countrymen Alistair Presnell (70) and Won Joon Lee (66).
Keegan Bradley, Chris Nallen, 2007 champion Daniel Summerhays and second-round leader Michael Putnam are just two off the pace heading into Sunday’s finale.
“I played really well today and if someone had said I could have had 2 under starting the day I would have taken it,” said Flanagan, who had gotten to 9 under par before surrendering two shots to the field at the par-3 17th.
“I’ve got a big gap between my 3-iron and my 4-iron and the 3-iron really wasn’t the club there,” Flanagan said of the 201-yard hole. “I tried to hit a low 4-iron in there and got a little quick and came over the top of it. The bunker shot wasn’t a very good bunker shot at all and then I three-putted from 40 feet. Two bad golf shots cost me two strokes.”
Other than that, it was smooth sailing for Flanagan, who had struggled a bit the first two days to find a rhythm but was nearly perfect until his hiccup on 17.
“I hit it great today. I didn’t miss many shots and I was really happy with the way I hit it,” he said. “That was probably as good as I could hope for in the conditions we’ve had and the way I’ve been hitting it the last few days.”
The former U.S. Amateur champion missed only two greens all day and moved to the top of the leaderboard for the first time since he won the 2007 Xerox Classic in Rochester, N.Y.
“This is the closest I’ve been in a long time,” he said. “My whole mentality right now is just to take baby steps and if I can win golf tournaments, great. If I don’t win tomorrow it’s not going to be disappointing.”
The Korean-born Lee made the day’s biggest charge, posting a 5-under 66 and getting to the clubhouse three full hours before the leaders.
“I think I missed maybe three greens today. I hit a lot of shots close,” said Lee, whose score was the lowest of the day by two strokes. “I played the par 5s good today, which I hadn’t done in a long time. I thought there was a 64 out there. I was a couple of shots short but still a good result.”
Lee and Flanagan will be joined in Sunday’s final pairing by Presnell, who had six birdies and five bogeys on his Saturday card.
“I hit the ball pretty good and if I had a chance off the fairways my distance control was pretty good,” he said. “Today I didn’t hit too many fairways and that made for a bit of hard work. I was in behind trees and things. Thursday, Friday it was a bit easier but today was a bit of a battle.”
Third-Round Notes: Due to the possibility of overnight and morning storms, fourth-round tee times are pushed back. Play will be in threesomes off the first and 10th tees in threesomes. Times will run from 10:00 a.m. to noon with an expected finish time of 5:00 p.m. … Saturday’s scoring average was 72.486. … The 473-yard, par-4 14th hole was the most difficult on the course and boasted a scoring average of 4.639. There were only two birdies from the field of 72 players (Adam Bland, Andrew Buckle) and the hole actually had more bogeys (32) than pars (30). There were also eight double bogeys, including one by Michael Putnam, who wound up breaking his 7-iron when hitting his second shot from behind a tree.
This is the first time in Nick Flanagan’s career that he has held the outright lead after 54 holes of a Nationwide Tour event. He shared the lead with Jeff Quinney and Boo Weekley after three rounds of the 2006 Price Cutter Charity Championship. Flanagan shot a final-round, 5-under 67 to finish at 25 under but was second to Doug LaBelle II by two strokes. … Flanagan is in search of his fourth career win on the Nationwide Tour. He won three times in 2007 and earned an instant promotion to the PGA Tour that year. All three of those wins were come-from-behind victories:
Keegan Bradley, runner-up two weeks ago at the Ford Wayne Gretzky Classic, shot a 3-under 68 and is 5 under for the week. Bradley managed only one par at No. 3 on his opening nine holes (5 birdies, 3 bogeys) and then reeled off eight pars in a row on the back before rolling in a birdie putt. … Rookie Jamie Lovemark put himself in contention with a 3-under 68 to get to 4 under total. He is currently tied for eighth. Lovemark won the Mexico Open Bicentenary last month and is currently No. 4 on the money list. The former Southern California All-America also has a runner-up, two third-place finishes and a tie for fifth this season. … Camilo Benedetti has posted scores of 1-2-3 on the par-3 eighth hole thus far. The Colombia native shot a 2-over 73 and is 3 under for the week.