Andres Gonzales calls it cliché golf -- hit the fairways, hit the green and try to make some putts. His formula, though possibly boring at times, is working perfectly at the Soboba Golf Classic on the Nationwide Tour. Gonzales held steady for the third straight day, posting a 3-under 68 to maintain his place atop the leaderboard -- a spot he’s held each of the first three rounds.
“With what the course was showing this week, there haven’t been a lot of low scores,” said Gonzales, whose 8-under 205 total is two better than Adam Hadwin and Andrew Svoboda. “I figured there might be a couple today, but I also thought that if I could put anything up in the 60s I’d be in pretty good shape.”
Gonzales is in good shape for several things now. He can avenge a playoff loss he had here last year to Ted Potter Jr. He can finally take that final step into the winner’s circle and collect his first title. And a win will go a long way in his quest toward a return trip to the PGA Tour, where he was a rookie in 2011.
“A lot of what is driving me this year was being on Tour last year,” he said. “I got a taste of it and I worked really hard in the off-season. After you experience that, you don’t want to play anywhere else.”
Gonzales’ brand of steady-as-she-goes-golf is predicated on hitting fairways (he’s tied for 13th) and greens in regulation (he’s fifth this week). Other than a three-putt par on the par-5 18th, Gonzales was nearly perfect, again.
“You never like to end the day with a three-putt but I’m having a ball right now,” he said. “I’m hitting good shots and I’m not stressing out a whole lot. When you’re not hitting it well, that’s when golf gets hard.”
Everything was pretty easy for Hadwin, whose 6-under 65 was the low round of the day and the week, and for Svoboda, who had the second-best score Saturday with a 66.
“Today was a great day. I finally got the irons dialed into the greens and I hit a lot more greens today than I did the first two days,” said Hadwin, who hit 14 in Round 3. “I hit it close all day. My first five birdies were all inside of five feet. When you’re hitting it that good, it’s tough to really fall apart.”
Hadwin nearly fell apart at the final hole with his third shot, a pitch from only 50 yards out.
“I hit it solid. I hit a pure wedge shot but it was just a pure wedge shot that came up 15 yards short,” said Hadwin. “Fortunately, it didn’t roll back in the water and I was able to save par.”
Hadwin closed out his 65 to get to 6 under just as Gonzales was making the turn at minus-6.
Svoboda moved into contention with three consecutive birdies to join Hadwin at 6 under and tied for second.
Michael Letzig (67) holds down fourth place, four back of Gonzales, who is trying to become the first start-to-finish winner on the Nationwide Tour since 2008, a span that now stretches 100 tournaments.
‘I’ve done it at other levels but when it comes down to it, it’s all the same whenever you go wire-to-wire. You’re playing with the same feelings,” said Gonzales, who finished second at the season-opening Pacific Rubiales Colombia Championship and is No. 8 on the money list. “I know that what I’m doing is working. It’s obviously worked the last few days. So just go out and try to do the same thing -- hitting fairways, hitting greens and make some putts.”
--Andres Gonzales is trying to become the first wire-to-wire winner on the Nationwide Tour since Colt Knost at the 2008 Price Cutter Charity Championship. There have been only four such winners on Tour in the past 10 years: Chris Nallen at the 2004 Gila River Golf Classic, Kevin Na at the 2006 Mark Christopher Charity Classic and Colt Knost at the 2008 Price Cutter Charity Championship.
--The last person on the Nationwide Tour to hold/share the lead after each round was J.J. Killeen at the 2011 Utah Championship. Killeen led by two after the first round, by one after the second, was in a two-way tie after the third and went on to win by four strokes.
--This is the first time in Andres Gonzales’ career that he has held or shared a 54-hole lead. In the first four tournaments this year, the 54-hole leader has gone on to win all four times.
The Nationwide Tour will move to northern California next week for the TPC Stonebrae Championship at the TPC Stonebrae in Hayward.