The Nationwide Tour’s News Sentinel Open is up for grabs. Windy conditions rolled in halfway through Saturday’s third round, making the course tougher and bringing a slew of players back into the mix. Kirk Triplett carded a few late birdies in the afternoon to fire a 4-under 68 and post a 17-under 199 total.
The 49-year-old leads rookie Aaron Goldberg (65), 2010 Nationwide Tour graduate Kevin Kisner (68) and 36-hole leader John Mallinger (72) by one stroke entering the final round. Georgia Bulldog Paul Claxton (69), Marco Dawson (65), who won the Lasalle Bank Open in 2002, while last week’s Midwest Classic winner James Nitties (66), lefty Ted Potter Jr. (68), reigning Melwood Prince George’s County Open champion Steve Wheatcroft (67) and Knoxville’s own Garrett Willis (71) are all two back at 15-under 201.
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Lurking at 14-under 202 is two-time winner Mathew Goggin (68/11th). Goggin, who is No. 2 on the 2011 Nationwide Tour money list, won the season-opening Panama Claro Championship, coming from four strokes back on Sunday to win by two. He picked up his second win roughly four months later at the Preferred Health Systems Wichita Open. Goggin is seeking to become the first three-time winner since Michael Sim in 2009. Nine players have earned the “battlefield” promotion to the PGA Tour.
“I’m very excited about tomorrow. This is why I came out to play,” Triplett said after his round. “Anybody who is between four and six shots back still has a chance.”
Triplett, who is searching for his first Nationwide Tour victory in his 12th career start, began the third round three shots back but quickly made birdie on the par-5 first hole. He patiently carded 10 pars before notching three birdies in a row on Nos. 12-14. The three-time PGA Tour winner will be using his past experiences on Sunday to help him seal the deal. Triplett’s most recent win came at the 2006 Chrysler Classic of Tucson.
“I came out here to try and get into contention,” said Triplett, who played in the final group here last year and tied for third. “It was difficult to stay patient during that stretch of pars, but the course required me to make some adjustments because of the conditions. The hole locations were within a few feet of the edges and the greens started to firm up so there were some pins I couldn’t get at -- I don’t spin it as much as I used to -- I just had to stay patient.”
Second-round leader John Mallinger appeared to be running away with the tournament after making three birdies to start the round, but a triple bogey on the par-4 eighth hole stopped him in his tracks. After making the turn Mallinger made a couple more bogeys and he appeared to be on damage control. Fortunately, he made a couple of birdies coming down the stretch to stay in contention entering the final round.
“I just got a terrible break there on the eighth hole,” said Mallinger, whose ball hit the left edge of the green and kicked 20 yards left out of bounds. “It was a tough break but I was able to roll in a couple of birdies towards the end of my round to keep me in the tournament so I’m happy about that.”
Goldberg’s bogey-free 7-under 65 matched the low round of the day. The 26-year old rookie, who is 75th on the Nationwide Tour money list, is competing in his ninth event of the year. His best finish, a tie for eighth, came at the Chiquita Classic, where he played in the final group and he’s finished in the top 30 in his previous three starts.
“I putted really well out there today,” said Goldberg, who made two 25-foot putts for birdie from off the green on the par-4 eighth hole and the par-4 14th hole. “I’ve won on different levels before so hopefully I can feed off that. I played in the final group on Sunday in Cincinnati and I feel like I learned from it. I didn’t play badly I just didn’t get anything going. Hopefully I’ll be a little more comfortable tomorrow and play well.”
Former University of Georgia All-American Kevin Kisner struggled on the opening nine with a 1-over 37, but quickly stole two back after chipping in for eagle on the par-5 10th hole. The 2010 Mylan Classic champion kept up the pace and finished off his round with three more birdies to get back in the hunt.
“I struggled on the front after making just one bad swing,” said Kisner, who hit it out of bounds on the par-5 fifth hole en route to a bogey. “Tomorrow I’m just going to try and make as many birdies as I can. I think it’ll be a shootout since the wind isn’t supposed to blow as bad.”
--Two-time PGA Tour winner Boo Weekley is playing in his first Nationwide Tour event since the 2006 Nationwide Tour Championship. He carded rounds of 70-67-68 to be 11 under par (tied for 17th) heading into Sunday. Weekley has played in 19 PGA Tour events this year and missed the Playoffs for the FedExCup by finishing outside the top 125 in the point standings (157th).
--J.J. Killeen, who is No. 1 on the Nationwide Tour money list, carded a third-round 4-under 68 to be 9-under 207 through 54 holes. He is tied for 33rd.
--Last week’s Midwest Classic winner, James Nitties, carded rounds of 67-68-66 to be 15-under 201. He’s tied for fifth. Nitties is looking to be the second playing this season to win back-to-back events.
--John Daly, who is playing on a sponsor’s exemption, recorded rounds of 70-65-74 to be 7-under 209.
--There were seven bogey-free rounds on Saturday compared to 21 in the second round and 17 in the first round.
--Third-round leader/co-leader has gone on to win this event 12 out of the 18 times the event has gone to 72 holes. The last to do so was Chris Kirk last year. The 54-hole leader/co-leader has gone on to won 10 of the 15 events to go 72 holes on the 2011 Nationwide Tour.
--The par-4 15th hole has been the most-difficult hole through three rounds at Fox Den Country Club with an average of 4.066. The par-5 first hole has played the easiest with an average of 4.294.
--Saturday’s field scoring average was 70.418 compared to 70.013 yesterday and 70.442 on Thursday.
--Dawie Van Der Walt, who was playing as a single in the first group at 8:06 a.m., played in 2:48 en route to a 5-under 67 to get to 10-under 206. He hit a 371-yard tee shot on the par-5 18th hole. From there he hit a 7-iron from 206 yards to about 20 feet where he two-putted for birdie.
--Monday qualifier Adam Mitchell of Atlanta, Georgia has carded rounds of 71-65-72 to be 8 under 208 (tied for 41st). He was the only Monday qualifier of the 14 that made the cut.