Hunter Haas carded a bogey-free 6-under 66 on Saturday to grab the top spot at the Price Cutter Charity Championship, the 19th event on the 2010 Nationwide Tour. At 19-under 197, he will enter the final round with a two-stroke cushion over Jonas Blixt (67) and Kyle Thompson (69).
Haas began both nines at Highland Springs Country Club in impressive fashion. He birdied three of the first four holes on Saturday -- and barely missed a six-footer for birdie on the other (No. 3) -- en route to a front-nine 3-under 33. He then recorded three consecutive birdies on Nos. 10-12 en route to a back-nine 33.
“It is nice to start off like that,” said Haas, who hit nine of 14 fairways and 14 of 18 greens. “I was just trying to execute good shots during the round. There were a few tee balls out there that were tough today and I managed to keep it in good position. I wasn’t too aggressive. I just took what the day gave me. I didn’t really hit any bad shots.”
Executing good shots and achieving success at the Price Cutter Charity Championship isn’t new to Haas, who has never missed the cut in eight starts at the event. He has finished inside the top 15 two of the last three years, including a tie for 13th and a tie for 15th in 2007 and 2008, respectively.
“I’ve never missed a cut here,” stated Haas, who will be seeking his third win on Sunday to go with victories at the 2004 and 2006 Knoxville Open. “It just sets up well for me. I am kind of liking zoysia fairways over soft bent and I think that has something to do with it. I’m also hitting the ball well. All of those things combined when I’m here add up to good play.”
Another key to his success in Springfield can be pinpointed to the Hickory Hills Country Club -- the home course of the late Payne Stewart -- which sits just six miles from Highland Springs Country Club. Hickory Hills’ Director of Golf, Rick Neal, serves as Haas’ swing instructor.
“When I’m hitting it bad here, I can fix it over there at Hickory,” said Haas earlier in the week “I stay with him every time I’m here. They treat me like a son. A lot of their members I’ve became friends with. I feel like a lot of people are pulling for me here. I’m comfortable here.”
Haas will be tough to catch on Sunday, as he enters the final round as one of the Tour’s hottest players. He has now posted 11 consecutive rounds in the 60s, leading to a tie for 11th at the Cox Classic and a tie for fourth at last week’s Preferred Health Systems Wichita Open. During that stretch he is a combined 53 under par.
“I won’t say I love the heat, but I tend to play well in it,” stated Haas. “I do like this stretch. I start thinking when can I take off a tournament, but I like all of the courses.”
Blixt (a former golf standout at Florida State University and the low medalist at the 2007 Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament) and Thompson (who held at least a share of the lead the first two rounds) will enter the final round two strokes behind Haas. PGA Tour veteran Brandt Jobe, playing his first full season on the Nationwide Tour, will enter the final round three strokes back.
Third-Round Notes: Hunter Haas will enter the final round with the lead for the third time in his career. In the previous two, he carried the outright lead to victory at the 2006 Knoxville Open and finished runner-up after sharing the 54-hole lead at the 2002 Lake Erie Charity Classic. … Gary Woodland (68-67-71) played his first 47 holes without a bogey before carding a double-bogey 6 on the par-4 12th hole. … Chad Ginn (67-68-67) played his first 40 holes without a bogey before doing so at the par-4 fifth hole.
Players with bogey-free rounds included Hunter Haas (66), Jim Herman (66), Dicky Pride (68) and Daniel Summerhays (70). … The third-round leader/co-leader has gone on to win five of 17 events this season, most recently Tommy Gainey at the Chiquita Classic. … The 54-hole leader has won five of 15 times at the Price Cutter Charity Championship: Anthony Painter (1998), Patrick Sheehan (2002), Brad Ott (2004), Tom Scherrer (2007) and Colt Knost (2008). … The par-4 12th hole played the toughest on Saturday with a 4.149 average. … The par-5 first hole was the easiest at 4.537, yielding eagles to Brandt Jobe, Tag Ridings and Casey Wittenberg.