Casey Wittenberg matched his career-low round with an 8-under 63 Saturday and stormed into the lead after three days at the Chitimacha Louisiana Open on the Nationwide Tour. Wittenberg's 18-under 195 total is four shots better than Darron Stiles (65) and second-round leader Camilo Benedetti (70) heading into the final at Le Triomphe Country Club near Lafayette.
Canada's Adam Hadwin, Paul Claxton and Rob Oppenheim all posted 3-under 68s and share fourth place, five back of the leader.
Chris Riley (66) and veteran Woody Austin (67) are six off the pace after 54 holes.
Wittenberg started the third round four back of Benedetti but made up ground with a pair of birdies to begin the day and then moved into contention with a 30-foot eagle putt at the par-5 fifth hole.
"That got my day started," said Wittenberg, who ripped a 3-wood from 260 yards on his second shot. "The conditions are soft and whenever you let players of our caliber on a soft golf course there isn't really much that you can't hit at."
The 27-year-old Memphis resident added a birdie at the par-3 eighth hole to move into a share of the lead. He then took charge with three consecutive birdies midway through the back nine. Wittenberg birdied Nos. 13, 14 and 15 -- the three toughest holes on the course.
"We were trying to play aggressive golf," he said. "There's no running away and hiding on this Tour especially. We were just trying to get as many as we could out there."
Those birdies pushed him to 18 under and opened a gap on the field.
Stiles, who started the day five back, vaulted up the board with five birdies in his first six holes.
"You've got three par 5s in the first seven, that's where you have to get it done out here," he said. "With the wind today and the first few holes downwind, you had to get it done early. I looked at the scores before I came out, so I knew it was out there."
Stiles closed with a couple of late birdies for a 6-under 65 to get into Sunday's final pairing with Wittenberg.
Benedetti had three birdies in his first five holes but was shut out the rest of the day, managing 12 pars and a bogey coming in and settling for a 1-under round of 70.
"It was solid. In my mind I probably shot 6 under," said Benedetti, who posted scores of 66-63 to open the week. "I hit a lot of good putts again. They didn't go in. The same way they were going in the first couple of days, they were just not going in today. I hit so many that were three feet from the hole and I thought I made them. They either stayed straight or broke more than I thought. It is what it is."
--Lift, clean and place conditions were in effect for the first round and second rounds, but not for the third round.
--Steve LeBrun played the first 48 holes without a bogey. He made a quick run up the board early Saturday and was 6 under through his first 11 holes to get to 11 under, then stumbled with a double bogey at the difficult 13th hole and a bogey at the 14th. He finished with a 4-under 67 and is 9 under (204) and tied for 20th.
--Paul Claxton's birdie-free streak came to an end after 45 holes with a bogey 5 at the par-4 10th hole. He rebounded with a pair birdies after that and shot a 3-under 68 and is tied for fourth.
--Nine of 18 54-hole leaders/co-leaders have gone on to win this tournament, including four of the last five: Brett Wetterich (2011), Bubba Dickerson (2009), Gavin Coles (2008) and Skip Kendall (2007).
--In the 18 previous times this event has been contested over 72 holes, there has been an outright leader after 54 holes on 17 occasions. The only time that there were co-leaders after three rounds was in 2009 when Bubba Dickerson and Scott Sterling were tied at 9 under par. Dickerson went on to win in a playoff.
--Sweden's Jonas Blixt posted his second straight bogey-free 67. He is a 10-under 203 after three rounds and has played the last 41 holes without a bogey.
--The most difficult hole through three rounds is the 485-yard 14th, which has a scoring average of 4.294. Only four players in the field of 65 managed to birdie the hole on Saturday: Casey Wittenberg, Paul Claxton, Patrick Sheehan and Steve Wheatcroft.
--The Nationwide Tour will take next week off before heading to California for two consecutive weeks. The next stop will be in San Jacinto, Calif. (near Palm Springs) for the Soboba Golf Classic at The Country Club at Soboba Springs in the first week of April.