After holding the lead at the end of a Nationwide Tour round for the first time following the second round of the Preferred Health Systems Wichita Open, Roberto Castro decided he liked the vantage point. He shot a 4-under 67 Saturday and heads into the final round with a one-stroke advantage over his playing partner Steven Bowditch. The two will play together again Sunday.
Castro entered his round with a streak of 38 consecutive bogey-free holes, dating to last week’s Cox Classic. He birdied the third and seventh holes on the front nine and added three more birdies on the back nine. He extended his bogey-free streak to 53 holes and stood on the par-4 16th tee, where his streak ended.
“I hit my approach into a goofy spot. Bogey. It was no big deal,” Castro said. “I regrouped and hit a really nice shot on 17.”
Even with that lone blemish on his scorecard, Castro likes his position with one round to play.
“The first thing I learned in my professional career is that if you want to win, you need to shoot the low round on the final day,” he said. “That’s not always the case, and it doesn’t mean I’m going to try harder. But I gotta play a good round.”
A win would give Castro fully exempt Nationwide Tour status for the remainder of this season and all of next year, so a lot is riding on Sunday’s 18 holes for the Georgia Tech graduate who has no status on the Tour.
“Obviously if I win [Sunday], it will mean more. I just need to keep playing good golf, and it will pay off,” he added.
Of the five players immediately behind Castro, four have won on the Nationwide Tour, including Bowditch who picked up his lone Tour title in his homeland of Australia in 2005 (Jacob’s Creek Open Championship).
“He’s playing great,” Bowditch said of Castro. “He’s going to be tough to beat.”
Bowditch averted a disaster on the par-3 17th when, as he said, he hit a “duck-hook 4-iron.” After a long wait to get a ruling, with his ball behind the bleachers adjacent to the 18th tee, he received a free drop about 50 yards to the front-left of the green. He chipped into the bunker then got up and down for bogey.
“It was a terrible golf shot,” he said of his effort off the tee. “I was just trying not to kill too much momentum.”
It must have worked because Bowditch came back on the closing hole and made birdie.
Two back of Bowditch and three behind Castro is Scott Gutschewski, who acknowledged he hasn’t had a great putting day yet this week. He knows he’ll need that Sunday.
“I’ll have to make some of those I’ve been missing,” Gutschewski said. “I just need to keep doing what I’ve been doing. It sounds simple, but sometimes the simplest is the hardest.”
Colt Knost is in a group of three tied for fourth at 15 under. Knost played his third round with Michael Putnam, with Knost shooting a 64 and Putnam firing a 65.
“We were 129 as a group. But that’s way off Paul Claxton and (Scott) Gutschewski’s 124 -- 62-62 -- last week in Omaha,” Knost said.
He is still solidly in contention, however he wanted to talk about his first round, specifically his play at No. 12 where he had a triple bogey, a score that is still haunting him 48 hours later.
“I hit the wrong club and mis-hit it into the water. Triple,” he said. “I’ve been playing really well lately. I just haven’t put four rounds together.”
A large group of players will be trying to accomplish just that Sunday.
Third-Round Notes: Steven Bowditch has enjoyed eight consecutive under-par Nationwide Tour rounds. He shot a final-round 68 at the Nationwide Children’s Hospital Invitational two weeks ago, shot rounds of 63-67-70-70 last week at the Cox Classic and has opened with rounds of 64-65-66 this week. … Tjaart van der Walt had been bogey-free through the first 36 holes in Wichita. His streak ended on the first hole Saturday when he bogeyed the par 4. He also bogeyed the sixth and ninth holes on his way to a 69. He’s tied for 11th. … Alan Morin easily bettered the top 18-hole score of his career with his 7-under 64. This is only his third made cut of the season. His top 18-hole round prior to Saturday was a 67 at this year’s BMW Charity Pro-Am in May.
Arjun Atwal is only making his third Nationwide Tour start of 2010, but he’s making the most of his opportunities. After missing the cut in March at the Chitimacha Louisiana Open, he tied for 10th at the Stadion Athens Classic at UGA in May and is tied for fourth heading into the final round in Wichita. Atwal has improved each day, opening with a 68 followed by a 66 and a 64. … The low round of the day came from Chris Kirk, who shot an 8-under 63. … Michael Schachner, playing in his first Nationwide Tour event, put himself in contention Saturday with a seven-birdie, no-bogey 64. He is 13 under overall and tied for 11th. The 64 is still four strokes shy of his career-low round, though. In 2007, the Duke graduate shot a 60 in the third round of the NCAA Championships in Charlottesville, Va. Schachner had a 15-foot birdie putt for a 59 on No. 18 at Golden Horseshoe that burned the edge of the cup. Schachner joined Boyd Summerhays (BYU), Bryce Molder (Georgia Tech), Brock Mackenzie (Washington) and Paul Casey (Arizona State) as the only players to shoot 60s in NCAA-sanctioned tournaments.
Once again, the par-4 sixth was the most-difficult hole at Crestview. It has been the hardest hole for the week, with the cumulative stroke average there at 4.218. The stroke average Saturday was 4.176. The seven birdies Saturday came from Joe Affrunti, Daniel Barbetti, Jonas Blixt, Fabian Gomez, Jesse Hutchins, Kyle Thompson and Dustin White. … Tommy Gainey, a two-time Nationwide Tour winner in 2010, who was tied for 29th heading into the third round, withdrew after his third hole with a bad back. He had opened with two birdies and a bogey prior to his withdrawl. … With Jamie Lovemark, the Tour’s leading money-winner, not playing this week and No. 2 Tommy Gainey withdrawing, both Martin Piller and Chris Kirk have the opportunity to overtake Lovemark at the top of the 2010 money list. Piller is exactly $28,000 behind Lovemark, while Kirk is $47,933 behind. Piller is tied for 49th, while Kirk is tied for seventh.