WICHITA, Kan. -- Jim Herman left a few out on the table on Saturday. He just hopes the cupboard is full late Sunday afternoon at Crestview Country Club.
Despite strong, gusting winds and temperatures soaring into the upper 90s, Herman, still motivated by his poor play at last week’s U.S. Open, forged a 3-under-par 68 on Saturday that allowed him to maintain a two-stroke advantage over first-round leader Casey Wittenberg through three rounds of the 2012 Preferred Health Systems Wichita Open on the Nationwide Tour.
Herman, the overnight leader, is currently just outside the top 25 on the 2012 official Nationwide Tour money list at No. 28. He didn’t make his first birdie in Round 3 until sinking a 20-foot putt at the par-4 fifth hole. However, he three-putted from 70 feet for bogey at the par-3 eighth hole to record his only blemish of the week and end a bogey-free run at 50 consecutive holes dating back to the final round of the Rex Hospital Open.
“I stayed in San Francisco with my family and friends after missing the cut last week because we had rented a house through Sunday. We went sightseeing on Saturday and I really didn’t want to do that. I finally went back out to the golf course on Sunday and that just made me madder for the way I played there at Olympic the first two days (10 over). Now I know why players leave a tournament after they miss a cut,” Herman said. “I came here to Wichita with a purpose and so far this week, I’m playing much better.”
Herman, 34, felt that even though he’s playing well, he left a few birdies on the course today.
“You really need to take advantage of those early holes here at Crestview and I didn’t do that. I also didn’t birdie the par-5 14th and you feel like you’re giving at least one back to the field when you don’t make birdie there,” Herman said. “I’m in good shape and I’ve won before at this level so I know I can do it. It’s just a matter of going out and executing tomorrow.”
Wittenberg, meanwhile, is trying to become the first two-time winner on the Nationwide Tour this year and his 67 Saturday included five birdies on the back nine. He was fortunate to make only a bogey at the par-4 seventh hole when an errant drive ended up against a fence and forced him to take a penalty for an unplayable lie. Earlier this year, Wittenberg cruised to an eight-shot win at the Chitimacha Louisiana Open.
“The course played very hard today. I made just one mistake and that was a pushed ball at the seventh hole. I knew the back nine was much easier than the front, so I turned the corner and just put my head down to try to get myself in position for tomorrow,” Wittenberg said. “I’m very aware of where I am and there’s a long way to go. I know I have to go out there and play good golf if I hope to win.”
Justin Hicks, who began the day in a tie for 25th made a big move early in the round, jumping 22 spots into an eventual tie for third with Jason Gore after posting a bogey-free 6-under 65 in the breezy conditions. Hicks’ round proved to be the low score of the field on Saturday. He needed only 24 putts to streak up the leaderboard, his round highlighted by birdies on four of his final five holes. He made a 12-footer at the raucous par-3 17th, one of only nine birdies made on the hole that maintains its reputation for a party-like atmosphere as this event. He was also one of only two players to birdie the par-4 sixth hole, sinking a 25-foot putt.
“We saw two days of weather on Tuesday and Wednesday with a very similar wind. It was playing pretty tough and I just tried to keep it in play the best way possible and stay patient,” Hicks said. “I worked hard on my putting yesterday and actually made a slight change in the loft. It seemed like the putter was rolling the ball a lot better and I think I saw signs of that today.”
Gore got off to a good start with birdies on the first two holes, but played his other 16 holes in just 1-under for 68. The Nationwide Tour’s all-time victory leader is searching for his eighth career title on the circuit and first since the 2010 Miccosukee Championship.
--This marks the first time in his Nationwide Tour career that Jim Herman has held sole possession of the 54-hole lead. When he won the 2010 Moonah Classic in Australia, Herman was tied with Chris Kirk for the top spot through three rounds.
--Third-round leaders/co-leaders have gone on to win this event seven times in the 19 years the event went 72 holes. Last year, Matthew Goggin (-16) led Troy Kelly and Kyle Thompson by one stroke after three rounds and went on to win by one over Thompson. 54-hole leaders/co-leaders have won seven of the previous 11 events on the 2012 Nationwide Tour, including Lee Williams at the recent Mexico Open.
--Winners on the 2012 Nationwide Tour have also come out of the final grouping on Sunday seven times in 11 tournaments. Hudson Swafford was the farthest back when he won the Stadion Classic at UGA, playing in the 10th to last grouping on Sunday in Athens and coming from five strokes back for victory.
--Luke List, currently ranked second on the official money list this year, continues to climb the leaderboard. A winner earlier this year at the South Georgia Classic, List was tied for 94th after posting a 71 in the opening round at Crestview. His 64 on Friday jumped him up into a tie for 15th and a 68 moved him into a tie for sixth.
--Open qualifier Chad Collins, a two-time winner on the Nationwide Tour, aced the par-3 12th hole with a 5-iron shot from 193 yards. It was the first hole-in-one at the PHS Wichita Open since 2005 and the 11th in tournament history. Collins’ ace was also the 13th hole-in-one on the 2012 Nationwide Tour. It was his sixth career ace and his second in competition on the Nationwide Tour. In his rookie season on the Nationwide Tour in 2005, Collins made a hole-in-one in the first round of the 2005 Alberta Classic in Canada.
“It’s my sixth hole in one and oddly enough, I haven’t seen half of them go in. I didn’t see this one go in but I knew something had happened when I heard the roar. My last ace in competition on the Nationwide Tour came in my rookie year in Calgary. I think I used a 5-iron for that one as well. The ace today came at a good time.”