As last full-field event on the Nationwide Tour this season comes to a close, several of the players on top of the leaderboard at the inaugural Winn-Dixie Jacksonville Open are trying to make moves on the money list for several different reasons.
Jon Mills shot a 4-under 66 Saturday to move to 10 under par and take a two-stroke lead over Rob Oppenheim, Kevin Chappell, Shane Bertsch and Craig Barlow. Mills is trying to earn one of 25 spots on the 2011 PGA Tour. Currently ranked 31st, the two-time career winner on the Nationwide Tour would likely move into the top 10 with a victory this week. Mills won the 2005 Canadian PGA Championship and the 2007 Albertsons Boise Open.
“This is the time of year were you are getting a lot of guys out here feeling the pressure of what they are playing for,” Mills said. “We all know what’s at stake. That comes with this time of year. I have to keep the pedal down, but you have to take what you can get on this golf course.”
Rob Oppenheim, sitting at No. 59 on the money list, shot a third-round 67 and finished Saturday at 8 under par. Oppenheim needs to remain in the top 60 on the money list to gain a spot in the field at next week’s Nationwide Tour Championship at Daniel Island in his first season on the Nationwide Tour.
“That was the goal coming into my first year out here. I thought if I could finish the year in the top 60 and get into the Nationwide Tour Championship, then it was a good year,” Oppenheim said. “I made the cut last week, but didn’t finish too well and slipped a few spots. If you are in that Tour Championship and you have a good week, then you can end up getting your Tour card. Today was a big round for me to play well and as long as nothing disastrous happens tomorrow, I’ll be playing next week.”
Kevin Chappell is watching the money list for a different reason. At No. 8 on the money list, Chappell is guaranteed his PGA Tour card in 2011. But with a victory this week, Chappell could move to the coveted No. 1 spot on the money list. The No. 1 player on the Nationwide Tour money list gains a full exemption on the PGA Tour gaining entry into every tournament that he eligible to play, including the other event held at TPC Sawgrass: The Players Championship.
“Whether I am 80th or eighth on the money list, I would like to think that my focus will always just be on playing my best and trying to win a golf tournament,” Chappell said. “To be honest, I haven’t thought about the money list all year. I have a chance to win a golf tournament and that’s all you can ask for going into Sunday. There shouldn’t be any more emphasis going into the last tournament of the year than the first tournament of the year.”
Playing in the same group as Oppenheim, Shane Bertsch also shot a 3 under par and is in the group at 8 under. Bertsch is playing under a medical exemption that gives him entry into five Nationwide Tour events. He would need a victory and some help to even get into the Nationwide Tour Championship. He has battled injuries and illnesses during that time, including an ongoing battle with vertigo since 2006 (which he treats with medicine today), a broken foot at the end of the 2008 season and a broken hand suffered earlier this year.
Barlow, also at 8 under par, has played both the PGA Tour and Nationwide Tour this year with his best finish on the PGA Tour coming at the Reno-Tahoe Open, where he finished tied for fifth. In 10 PGA Tour events, Barlow has made eight cuts, while in 14 Nationwide Tour events, he has made just seven.
Third-Round Notes: Jon Mills only needed 22 putts during the third round, the fewest number of putts in the field on Saturday. … In 152 previous Nationwide Tour starts, Mills has only once held the 54-hole lead before. He went on to win at the 2005 Canadian PGA Championship. … The par 3 11th hole played at 230 yards with the pin tucked in the back left portion of the green. There were zero birdies on the hole. It played to a 3.415 average and was the second most difficult hole of the day. The scoring average on Saturday was 70.938. For the week, the average was 70.716. … Nationwide Tour rookie and two-time All-American from Clemson, Kyle Stanley made a nice run on moving day shooting the round of the day with a 65 to move from a tie for 26th to a tie for sixth, three off the lead.