With no eagles through the first two rounds of the Utah Championship, Jeff Gove changed that in the third round. He made his first eagle of Saturday on the par-5 third hole, then holed out from the fairway on the 12th hole for another.
The second eagle gave him a temporary four-stroke lead and eventually helped him to a 4-under 67. But his play was only enough by the end of the day to earn him a tie for the lead with J.J. Killeen entering the final round. Killeen made three birdies in a row and four total on his back nine to finish with a 3-under 68. Both players stand at 16 under.
Because of bad weather predicted Sunday afternoon, starting times have been moved up, with Gove and Killeen -- playing partners Saturday -- teeing off at noon.
“I definitely didn’t start the way I wanted to,” said Killeen of his bogeys. “I think it was a timing thing. Maybe I swung a little too quick today. But the bogey I made on one kind of relaxed me.”
After Gove’s hole-out from the fairway, he was at 17 under, but another bogey at No. 14 left him at 16 under. He parred in.
"I flubbed that chip on 14. It was the only bad shot I had all day,” he said. Even with his back-nine struggles, Gove, a three-time Nationwide Tour champion, likes where he stands entering the final round.
“I haven’t been in this position for a long time. It’s been a while,” he said. “But I’ve done it before.” His first Nationwide Tour victory came in 1995 at the Tri-Cities Open in his home state of Washington. He added wins in 1999 (Knoxville Open) and 2005 (Oregon Classic).
This season, Gove, a Pepperdine University graduate, is 47th on the money list and is trying to make up for a bad five-week stretch in which he missed the cut in every tournament.
“I kind of got going in the wrong way this season and got sick in Mexico. I lost 11 pounds, and I still haven’t gained it back,” he said.
His game has looked healthy this week, as he’s tied for third in par-3 scoring average and tied for second on Willow Creek’s par 4s.
Killeen, a TCU product who still makes his home in Fort Worth, has made the course’s par 5s his priority.
“That’s where you score on this course,” he said. He played the five par 5s in 2 under Saturday.
With 18 holes to play, Jason Kokrak, who made only his second cut of the season, is tied for third with David Lingmerth. They are both four behind Gove and Killeen.
“I three-putted the first par 5, No. 1. That’s how I started my round,” Kokrak joked. “But I hit it solid from tee to green. I just went out there and tried to make birdies on the par 5s. I just tried to put myself in good position and didn’t try to do anything special.”
Five players are five back: Danny Lee, Mark Anderson, Jonas Blixt, Bud Cauley and Charles Warren.
--This is Jason Kokrak’s fifth start of the season and only his second made cut, and he’s tied for third. His 64 tied him for low-round honors with Mark Anderson. Kokrak, an Ohio native who played collegiately at Xavier University in Cincinnati, had his top finish earlier this year -- a tie for 34th at the Rex Hospital Open. In his career, he’s only made eight Nationwide Tour starts, with one coming as an amateur in 2007. His career-best finish is a tie for 13th in 2010, at the South Georgia Classic in Valdosta.
--Jeff Gove played bogey-free golf for the first 41 holes, but finally bogeyed when he missed the green on No. 6. He elected to putt from the fringe, came up short and missed his par putt. He added a second bogey on No. 14.
--Charles Warren has split his time evenly between the Nationwide Tour and PGA Tour in 2011. Warren, who is tied for fifth, is playing in his ninth Nationwide Tour event this season, with a tie for third at the South Georgia Classic his best performance. He’s only missed one cut and is 39th on the money list. In nine PGA Tour starts, Warren’s best showing was a tie for 18th at the John Deere Classic. Warren’s best finish in Utah was a tie for 11th in 2000.
--Danny Lee put together a 6-under 65 to move into contention. After opening with an even-par 71, he’s gone 66-65 in his last two rounds and has been bogey-free for 25 consecutive holes.
--There were seven eagles Saturday, with Jeff Gove making two of them (No. 3 and No. 12). The other eagles came courtesy of Mark Anderson (No. 12), Joel Edwards (No. 12), Carlos Franco (No. 17), David Lingmerth (No. 12) and Dan Woltman (No. 10). There have been 35 eagles this week, with Nos. 1, 3 and 12 all yielding eight. Interestingly enough, a tournament that has seen 23 aces in its history has not had a hole-in-one this week.
--The par-4 fourth hole was the most difficult hole of the day after the par-4 eighth was the toughest for the first two days of the tournament. No. 4 had six birdies against 24 bogeys in the third round and a stroke average of 4.277. Overall, No. 4 is the most difficult (4.231). There have only been 31 birdies there all week. Jeff Gove has three pars there, while J.J. Killeen has a birdie, a par and a bogey on No. 4 for an even-par showing.
--Only three players had bogey-free rounds Saturday. They came from Mark Anderson (64, tied for fifth), Danny Lee (65, tied for fifth) and Casey Wittenberg (66, tied for 10th).