Australia native Gavin Coles shook off the effects of four bogeys over his final 12 holes Saturday and holds a one-stroke lead over Jonas Blixt heading into Sunday’s final round of the Winn-Dixie Jacksonville Open on the Nationwide Tour. Coles finished with a round of 1-under-par 69 and has a 54-hole total of 7-under-par 203.
Coles, who shared the lead after 36 holes with Brian Stuard and Tim Wilkinson, got off to a blazing start, making birdies on four of his first five holes, including consecutive birdies on Nos. 3-4-5 to build a three-stroke lead. However, some bad swings on several holes proved costly.
“I got off to a good start with those birdies on four of the first five holes. I hit some close and made some birdies, but then I had some bad swings after that,” Coles said. “I read the greens pretty well all day except the last one at No. 18.”
Coles misread an eight-foot birdie putt that would have given him a two-stroke edge on the field.
“I wasn’t surprised no one made a move today,” Coles added. “The wind was playing tricks out there and after the first four or five holes the pins got more difficult as well.”
Coles lead by three after his birdie run but that lead disappeared when he made a bogey at No. 16 to fall back into a tie for the lead with Blixt. He quickly answered by hitting a 6-iron to two feet for a birdie to regain the lead.
“It’s funny, I think I’m more nervous on Saturday than I am on Sunday,” Coles continued. “I don’t know why. I was pretty nervous those first four or five holes. Maybe I should have stayed that way.”
Coles has some success on the Nationwide Tour when he has been in the lead. The two previous times he held sole possession of the lead after 54 holes he went on to win. The first was at the 2002 Jacobs Creek Open in Australia and the 2008 Chitimacha Louisiana Open.
Blixt is among a handful of players chasing Coles. He finished with a 2-under-par 68 and will begin Sunday’s final round just one stroke behind. The former Florida State star is bidding for his first Nationwide Tour victory.
Blixt played as a solo on Saturday after his scheduled playing partner, James Nitties, withdrew prior to the start of the round due to the flu. Nitties was tied for fourth when he withdrew.
“I had to wait on a lot of shots today and I could never get into a rhythm out there,” Blixt said.
The Winn-Dixie Jacksonville Open is the final full-field event of the 2011 season and the top 60 players on the money list after Sunday’s final round will advance to next week’s Nationwide Tour Championship at Daniel Island in Charleston, SC.
--David Lingmerth, currently 75th on the money list, has posted rounds of 65-68 in the last two rounds and will begin Sunday’s final round tied for fifth. He had opened with a 4-over-par 74 on Thursday.
--Jacksonville’s Bud Cauley got himself back into contention with his second straight sub-par round. After an opening-round 2-over-par 72, Cauley has followed with rounds of 68-67 to move into a tie for fifth place, four strokes back. He has already qualifed for the 2012 PGA Tour.
--Only two players have broken par in each of the first three rounds: Jonas Blixt (69-67-68) and Marco Dawson (69-69-69). Only 13 players finished under par on Saturday with Danny Lee, Craig Bowden and Bud Cauley leading the way with 3-under-par 67s.