CANONSBURG, Pa. – Ben Martin bogeyed his final two holes Saturday, but still managed to take a four-shot lead after three rounds of the Mylan Classic in suburban Pittsburgh. Martin wound up with a 13-under 200 total and will be looking for his second Web.com Tour win in the past six weeks when he tees off Sunday morning at the Southpointe Golf Club.
South Korean rookie Whee Kim, the 36-hole leader, birdied the final hole to cut Martin’s lead, which had grown to six with back-to-back birdies at 14 and 15.
“You could score out there today. I played good,” said Martin, a playoff winner at the United Leasing Championship in late June. “It’s a bitter taste after the last two holes because I’ve been finishing off my rounds pretty well this year. That was kind of abnormal.”
Dustin Garza (68), Brad Elder (70) and 40-year old Korean rookie I.J. Jang (71) are tied for third and barely within shouting distance, six shots back.
Another five players – Ariel Canete, Billy Hurley, Chad Collins, Peter Malnati and Kevin Kim – share sixth place, seven off the pace.
Martin started the third round two shots off the lead and slowly kept pouring in birdie after birdie to put himself in the driver’s seat. Martin turned the tables on Kim with six birdies in an 11-hole stretch during the middle of his round. Kim, 21, was struggling on his own and was 3 over and without a birdie through 13.
“It’s a lot of fun out there making birdies,” said Martin, who leads the tournament with 20 and is No. 1 on tour this year as well. “I just really enjoy being out there and having a chance to win. That’s why we play – to be up on the leaderboard.”
Not that the Clemson grad would even know. He rarely looks at the electronic scoreboards that are positioned around the golf course.
“I did see one of them when I putted out on 18,” he admitted. “It was surprising. I thought somebody would make a run. It was soft out there and I thought someone would shoot 6 or 7 under.”
Martin’s 4 under was the second-best round of the day as the hilly terrain continued to test the field. Saturday’s scoring average of 72.328 marked the third straight round that the field was well above the par of 71.
--Sunday’s play will be in threesomes off the first and 10th tees. Times will run from 8:40 to 10:41 a.m. ET.
--Ben Martin matched the 54-hole tournament record of 13-under 200 set by John Mallinger, Kevin Kisner and Gary Christian in 2011.
--This is the first time that Martin has held the 54-hold lead on the Web.com Tour. His previous best position came at the 2012 Winn-Dixie Jacksonville Open (third) and the 2013 Utah Championship (tied for third).
--Martin was tied for fifth and five shots off the lead after 54 holes of the United Leasing Championship, which he went on to win in a four-man playoff.
--Martin leads the tour in birdies this year with 264, and leads the tournament in birdies with 20. Ariel Canete is second on the list with 16.
--Martin has now posted par-or-better scores in 22 of his last 23 rounds, and has posted sub-par scores in 20 of his last 23 rounds. He’s a cumulative 93 under par in his last 23 rounds, and his scoring average for his last 23 rounds is 67.174.
--The largest 54-hole lead in the three previous years of the Mylan Classic was two strokes by Geoffrey Sisk in 2010. The largest 54-hole lead on tour this year is seven strokes by Will Wilcox at the South Georgia Classic. Wilcox went on to win by four shots.
--The largest come-from-behind wins this year are five strokes by three players – Alex Aragon, WNB Golf Classic; Chesson Hadley, Rex Hospital Open; Ben Martin, United Leasing Championship.
--A win by Martin would increase his season earnings to $396,249. He entered the week No. 4 on the money list with $274,749. Leading money-winner Michael Putnam, who has collected $430,684 and won twice this season, missed the cut this week. A win by Martin would cut Putnam’s lead down to $34,435.
--Ariel Canete shot the day’s best round, a 5-under 66 that moved him from tied for 36th and up to a tie for sixth. Canete has made seven cuts in 16 previous starts. His best finishes were a tie for 15th at the Brasil Classic and a tie for 11th at the South Georgia Classic.
--Whee Kim is a 21-year old rookie from South Korea. He led last fall’s PGA Tour Qualifying Tournament after both the second and third rounds before finishing tied for 43rd at PGA West in Palm Springs, Calif. He posted a course-record 63 in the second round. He was named the Rookie of the Year on the Korean Tour.
--Kim has made the cut in eight of his 16 starts prior to this week. He has four top-25 finishes, including a tie for second at the Mexico Open, and is No. 28 on the money list.
--Local favorite Steve Wheatcroft fired a 5-over 76 and dropped into a tie for 29th place. Wheatcroft started the day in tie for eighth place but triple-bogeyed the first hole and then double-bogeyed No. 2.
“I knew my tournament was over after the first two holes,” said Wheatcroft, who injured his Achillles on Friday and had a noticeable limp Saturday. “There are a lot of kids out there with the junior golf program who are with their parents and I wasn’t going to quit and set a bad example.”