Rookie Paul Haley simply refused to allow anyone to get close to the lead in Saturday's third round of the Chile Classic on the Nationwide Tour. Haley, 24, kept his foot on the gas and slowly separated himself from the field, which was producing enough birdies to turn the par-72 Prince of Wales Country Club course into a par-69.
The 2011 Georgia Tech grad out of Dallas owned a two-shot lead at the start of the day and pushed it to six at the end, thanks to a mistake-free 8-under 64, his second straight. It's now Haley's tournament to win or lose in this, only his third career start.
"There's so much golf to play on this course," said the leader. "There are 64s and 65s and 66s going up all over the place. You have to stay focused and try to make as many birdies as you can."
It's not that they weren't trying. The remaining 73 players made plenty, it's just that Haley made more.
Fellow Texan Brad Elder put a 6-under 66 on the board and pushed his way into solo second at 15 under. Alex Aragon and Paul Claxton also shot 66s and are tied for fourth at 14 under, along with Chris DeForest (69).
Low numbers were the order of the day as 21 players shot scores of 67 or better. But Haley's 64 was the best, again. That’s back-to-back 64s on a course that many figured would yield some low numbers, but not this low.
"I've never done that before. I've never been somebody who shot a bunch of low rounds," said Haley, who turned pro in September and is making just his third professional start. "I've never come close to shooting 21 under, let alone for four rounds. It doesn't matter what the course is like, if you're not making putts, you can't shoot a score like that."
It's not like Haley was draining 50-footers all day. The 2011 Atlantic Coast Conference champion birdied four of his first five holes, all from inside of 10 feet. It would have been 5 of 5 had it not been for a missed 6-footer at No. 4.
"I grew up on a tree-lined course like this in Dallas," said Haley, thinking of his Royal Oaks course. "It's a little bit longer than this but it's tree-lined and narrow. I like to work the ball in both directions with my irons and my driver. I'd say this is more of a shotmaker's course with the doglegs. The good thing for me this week is that I can get to par 5s like the long hitters."
Unless something drastic happens, Sunday will be more of a long shot than anything else.
"I saw I'm getting beat by quite a bit," said Elder when asked if he saw the leaderboard. "Paul's playing great. There's nothing I can about that. All I can do is try and shoot 10-under and see if that works."
--Rookie Paul Haley's 54-hole lead is sizable, but not the biggest in Nationwide Tour history. Steve Wheatcroft led by eight at the 2011 Melwood Prince George's County Open, while Greg Kraft led by seven at the 2005 Northeast Pennsylvania Classic and Parker McLachlin led by seven at the 2007 National Mining Association Pete Dye Classic. Wheatcroft and Kraft went on to win, but McLachlin shot a final-round 77 and lost to Jimmy Walker.
--Steven Alker's bogey-free run this week ended at the 10th hole. Alker's string was stopped at 45 holes when he stumbled at the par 4. He rebounded with a birdie on the next.
--The Nationwide Tour will take a week before beginning its domestic schedule. The Tour's next stop will be in Lafayette, La., for the Chitimacha Louisiana Open at Le Triomphe Country Club March 19-25.