LA QUINTA, Calif. -- Australia's Steven Bowditch shot an 8-under 64 on Sunday on PGA West's Jack Nicklaus Tournament Course to take a one-stroke lead after the fifth round of the PGA Tour qualifying tournament.
Bowditch had a 23-under 337 total in the six-round event. The final top 25 and ties will receive 2013 PGA Tour cards and the next 50 and ties will earn Web.com Tour cards.
Kris Blanks was second after a 66, and Derek Ernst (66), Steve LeBrun (67) and Edward Loar (68) followed at 21 under. They also played the Nicklaus course.
Sweden's Robert Karlsson, an 11-time winner on the European Tour winner, and England's Ross Fisher, a four-time European Tour winner, were in a group tied for 11th at 18 under. Karlsson shot 68, and Fisher had a 67.
Two-time heart transplant recipient Erik Compton was tied for 15th at 17 under after a 67. Tom Pernice, the oldest player in the field at 53, also was 17 under after a 68.
Camilo Villegas, a three-time PGA Tour winner, had a 73 to drop from a tie for 20th to a tie for 46th at 12 under.
Bowditch has played his last 54 holes (66-67-64) in 18-under par and without a single bogey. He made a total of 12 cuts in 30 starts during the 2012 season – he was five of 18 on the PGA TOUR and seven of 12 on the Web.com Tour. He is making his third start in the PGA Q-School, having tied for 46th in 2006 and tied for 38th one year ago.
Bowditch’s last win came on the Web.com Tour at the 2010 Soboba Golf Classic in nearby San Jacinto, Calif. He put together rounds of 70-64-63-68—265 (-19) to win by three shots and collect his second career title.
Ernst, 22, played college golf at Nevada-Las Vegas, is from Clovis, Calif., a suburb just northeast of Fresno. He is one of 12 players who successfully navigated all three prior stages (pre-qualifying, first stage and second stage) to earn a start this week. He has made only one previous start on the PGA Tour – a tie for 41st at the 2012 Fry’s.com Open in San Martin, Calif., where he was tied for second after the initial 18.
Blanks has made 20 or more starts on the PGA Tour in each of the last four years. In 2012, he made 11 cuts in 23 starts with only one top-25 finish (tied for 11th at the Valero Texas Open). In 2011, he finished No. 65 on the final money list. He is making his fourth Q-School appearance, having tied for 131st in 2004, tied for 33rd in 2007 and tied for 12th in 2009.
Eric Meierdierks, a 27-year-old from Chicago, fired a 5-under 67 and moved into a tie for third place. Meierdierks, who played college golf at Michigan State, is 20 under through five rounds. He has made only one career start on the PGA Tour and missed the cut at the 2009 Frys.com Open.
Fourth-round leader Dong-hwan Lee of South Korea posted a 1-under 71 and is tied for sixth at 20-under 340. Lee, 25, turned professional in 2005 and has earned a pair of victories on the Japan Golf Tour. (2007 Mizuno Open, 2011 Toshin Open) and was named the Tour’s Rookie of the Year in 2006. He played five full seasons on the Japan Golf Tour and has made 105 career starts. He has 26 top-10 finishes and 51 top-25 finishes.
Meen Whee Kim, the second- and third-round leader, stumbled to a 3-over 75 Sunday and fell into a tie for 30th place with 18 holes to go. Kim posted 20 birdies over his first 54 holes but has managed only three in his last 36.
Brett Bergeon withdrew during the fifth round due to a back injury.