POTOMAC, Md. – Chad Collins and Michael Putnam held their ground in Saturday’s third round of the Mid-Atlantic Championship and wound up sharing the 54-hole lead when the rest of the field failed to push forward. The co-leaders posted even-par scores of 70 at TPC Potomac at Avenel Farm and are 5-under 205 after three testing days outside the nation’s capital.
“Today was supposed to be moving day, but I think the course played harder than the first two days,” said Collins. “The course played long because some tees were pushed back and the hole locations were really tough. The pins were tucked in corners and on ridges and bumps and humps. It was hard to shoot a low number.”
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The lowest number of the day was a 65 by New Zealand’s Tim Wilkinson, who teed off 3 ½ hours before the final pairing. His 5-under score moved him all the way up into a tie for fifth place after making the 36-hole cut on the number.
Korea’s Sung Kang is only one shot back after a 1-over 71 that included a trio of three-putts.
Sweden’s Daniel Chopra quietly moved up with a 3-under 67 that put him two off the lead.
Wilkinson, rookie Chesson Hadley (67), Scott Dunlap (70) and Jim Herman (71) are at 2 under and only three back of the co-leaders.
“If you don’t hit it good and don’t hit the fairway, there’s trouble,” said Putnam, the Web.com Tour’s leading money winner. “I got severely penalized for not hitting the fairway. I didn’t need to get that penalized – I mean, it is my birthday!”
Last week’s Mexico Championship winner turned 30 in the sweltering heat, but was forced to temper the celebration when he played the first seven holes in 3 over par, thanks to a pair of penalty strokes for unplayable lies.
“I saw the scores and I knew I wasn’t out of it after seven,” said Putnam. “We’re going to celebrate a little tonight but tomorrow would be the birthday present. Even if I was four up after today, I wouldn’t consider it a birthday present yet because I’ve been there and done that.”
Putnam did “that” at last year’s Utah Championship, where he led by four after 54 holes but struggled to hit fairways and greens in the final round and shot a 3-over 74 to wind up tied for second.
Collins let a couple chances get away from him and countered two bogeys with just two birdies on the day. One of his misses was a two-foot birdie putt at No. 10.
“I didn’t really take it for granted,” he said. “It took off left on me and whether I pulled it or not, I don’t know. That was obviously a gimme birdie that I messed up on.”
Collins missed a slippery downhill 10-footer at the closing hole and when he emerged from the scoring tent he was surprised to find out that his even-par 70 had him tied for the lead.
“It’s a grinder’s course and that’s the type of course I like to play,” he said. “I like the ones where par means something.”
--Sunday’s play will be in threesomes off the first and 10th tees. Times will run from 7:22-9:10 a.m. with an expected finish time of 2:00 p.m. Times were moved up in anticipation of possible afternoon thunderstorms.
--Lefty Tim Wilkinson of New Zealand made a big move up the leaderboard with his 65. He started the day tied for 40th, but is tied for fifth heading into Sunday’s final round with a chance for another top-15 finish.
In seven starts this year, Wilkinson has six top-15 finishes, four of which are top-10s. His best week was a runner-up at the Stadion Classic at UGA and he was fifth at last week’s Mexico Championship. He came into the week No. 4 on the money list.
In addition, Wilkinson is ranked No. 1 in Scoring Average this year (68.83), and his only official over-par score came in the opening round on Thursday when he posted a 3-over-par 73. He added an even-par round of 70 on Friday. He is at 2-under par 208.
Wilkinson’s only hiccup this year came at the South Georgia Classic where he signed for an incorrect scorecard after the first round and was disqualified.
--Michael Putnam, winner of last week’s Mexico Championship, is trying to join a group of players on tour who have won in back-to-back weeks. The last person to do it was Luke Guthrie, who won the Albertsons Boise Open and the WNB Golf Classic last year. Guthrie went on to finish No. 2 on the money list.
--Second-round leader Hudson Swafford ran into problems on the back nine and wound up shooting a 7-over 77, dropping him back into a tie for 13th place.
“I wasn’t playing that bad on the front but then I hit it in spots where you couldn’t make pars from,” he said. “I just rode the bogey train for a while. It was a struggle on the back nine. I know I’ve been playing good but two or three bad swings put me in the wrong spots. You can’t get away with that on this golf course.”
Swafford, who played his final 12 holes in 8 over par, quickly put the day behind him and looked ahead to Sunday.
“What’s done is done and I can’t change that. I still have a chance for a good tournament,” he said. “Three or four under tomorrow goes a long way. You never know what can happen out here.”
--Kevin Kisner had a pair of eagles on the back nine. The first came at the par-5 10th hole and the second was at the short par-4 14th hole. Kisner, winner of the Chile Classic earlier this year, shot a 2-over 73 despite making only four pars and is tied for 21st.