John Mallinger continued his near-perfect week by firing a 7-under 65 in Saturday’s third round of the Nationwide Tour’s Children’s Hospital Classic and took a two-stroke lead over playing partner Billy Hurley (66).
Mallinger hit all 18 greens in regulation for the second time in three days and moved one step closer to his elusive first Nationwide Tour win. His 20-under 196 total is two ahead of Hurley and three better than Monday qualifier Brice Garnett (66).
Argentina’s Miguel Carballo (66) is four back, while Australian Peter Lonard (64) and 2004 champion Justin Bolli (69) are five off the lead.
Reigning NCAA individual champion John Peterson of LSU, who is making his professional debut this week, shot a 10-under 62 to get to 14 under par, where he is tied for seventh with Matt Every (66) and Aaron Goldberg (67).
Peterson made the cut on the number and was in the first pairing off the tee early Saturday morning. When he finished his round, Peterson was in first place and Mallinger, the second-round leader, was more than two hours away from his afternoon starting time.
“I turned on the Internet and saw somebody was at 10 under, but that was about it,” said Mallinger about checking early scores. “Everyone’s going to shoot between 3 and 6 under out here on average.”
Mallinger has been anything but average for the first three days. He has hit 53 of 54 greens in regulation and his only miss on Friday resulted in his only bogey of the week.
“I played solid today but I think yesterday was better,” he said. “I hit a couple of squirrelly ones today and got away with it.”
Mallinger’s biggest nemesis this week is the front nine, where he has made six pars on the two par-5 holes, Nos. 4 and 6, two of the three easiest holes on the Black Creek Mountain course.
“I don’t know what’s going on. My main goal tomorrow is to hit No. 6 fairway,” he said after missing it for the third consecutive day. “Two right, one in the bunker. That’s the only one that’s been bugging me.”
The 32-year-old Californian hasn’t been bothered by much ever since he missed out on the FedExCup Playoffs on the PGA Tour at the end of August. He has tied for third, finished second, second and tied for sixth in his four starts and has risen to No. 11 on the money list despite playing only six events.
“I have been in this position for the past several weeks,” he said. “I just have to stay patient and keep doing what I’m doing. There could be some movement tomorrow so I’ve still got to go out there and fire at pins.”
A pair of former LSU roommates jumped into the fray on Saturday, as Peterson and Andrew Loupe drove to Chattanooga together and both got into the field as Monday qualifiers. Peterson was the first person off the first tee and fired a 10-under 62 to get to 14-under par 202. Peterson had gone from making the 36-hole cut on the number to clubhouse leader when he finished his bogey-free morning.
Meantime, his close friend Loupe put an 8-under 64 on the board and was at 13-under 203. When Loupe completed play, Peterson and Loupe were listed 1-2 on the leaderboard.
This is Peterson’s first professional start. Peterson was going to turn pro prior to Q-School in a couple of weeks but joined Loupe on the trip to Chattanooga and decided to turn professional this week. Peterson was runner-up to Harris English in July at the Nationwide Children’s Hospital Invitational. Peterson was the outright leader after each of the first three rounds and was up by one after 71 holes at the Ohio State University Scarlet Course. Peterson wound up making bogey while English rolled in a birdie putt to flip-flop positions
This is Andrew Loupe’s first career start on the Nationwide Tour. Loupe turned pro earlier in the summer and has been playing Hooters Tour events. He is 9-for-9 in cuts made and has three top-10 finishes, including a runner-up effort. Loupe has pocketed nearly $40,000 in those events. He was a Monday qualifier at the Zurich Classic of New Orleans on the PGA Tour but shot 82-77 and missed the cut. Loupe also tried to Monday qualify for the Utah Championship on the Nationwide Tour in June but was not successful.
The last Monday qualifier to win on the Nationwide Tour was Ted Potter Jr. at the South Georgia Classic earlier this year.
There have been 20 Monday qualifiers who have won on Tour since 1990, including Kyle Reifers, who won this event in 2006 shortly after turning professional following his graduation from Wake Forest University. The last player to win a Nationwide Tour event in his first Tour start was Miguel Carballo at the 2007 Movistar Panama Championship.
--This is the first time that John Mallinger has held the outright lead after 54 holes in a Nationwide Tour event. He shared the third-round lead with Kevin Kisner and Gary Christian last month at the Mylan Classic near Pittsburgh, where he finished second by one stroke to Christian.
--Sunday’s winner will collect a check for $90,000 from the $500,000 purse. John Mallinger is currently No. 11 on the money list with $212,331 and a win could boost him as high as No. 4.
--Peter Lonard’s bogey-5 at No. 13 was his first bogey of the week. The veteran from Australia bounced back with a birdie on the next hole. … Daniel Chopra had eagles on the par-5 sixth and 14th holes en route to a 7-under 65. … Notah Begay (70) birdied five of his first six holes. Bubba Dickerson (69) birdied five of his final six holes.
--Jonas Blixt, No. 7 on the money list, shot a 78 to match his highest score of the year. He also shot a 78 in the third round of the season-opening Panama Claro Championship in late February. Blixt has finished tied for 12th, tied for second, tied for 39th, tied for second, tied for 42nd, tied for third and tied for fourth in his last seven starts.
--John Mallinger has posted five consecutive top-10 finishes, one shy of the Nationwide Tour’s all-time record. Doug Martin had six in a row during the 1993 season but not in six consecutive weeks. Martin had four in a row then did not play for a month and finally closed the season with two more.
--Tom Gillis also had six straight during a nine-tournament stretch in the 2009 season. Neither Martin nor Gillis included a win their six in a row.