OMAHA, Neb. – Matt Bettencourt was so relaxed on Saturday at the Cox Classic on the Web.com Tour that he was caught dozing off while waiting to tee off on No. 16 at Champions Run. The PGA Tour veteran recorded seven birdies in the round to post a 6-under 66 and take a share of the lead heading into the final round.
Paired with Bettencourt was Bronson La’Cassie, who also shot 66 that included a chip-in for eagle on the par-5 17th.
John Peterson, who played alongside the co-leaders, shot 66 and is one stroke back. Michael Putnam (65) and Andrew Loupe (67) share fourth place two off the pace.
Bettencourt relied on his driver to set him up with plenty of chances as the wind really picked up in the afternoon.
“You just have to be patient,” he said. “As long as you’re driving the ball well, you’re going to get your opportunities.”
Bettencourt is in a curious position. He is eligible to play in the Web.com Tour Finals because he finished inside the top 200 on the FedExCup Points list, but a win on Sunday would guarantee him one of the 25 PGA Tour cards awarded for next season. However, he isn’t really focused on the outcome.
“I really don’t think about that,” he said. “If it happens, it happens.”
Bettencourt has plenty of experience playing late on Sundays, winning twice on the Web.com Tour and once on the PGA Tour. The pressure of possibly regaining his card does not register; he believes that a good final round will take care of that.
“I've been real fortunate to win on the PGA Tour and win out here,” he said. “At the end of the day, if you’re playing well enough you’re going to get your Tour card.”
La’Cassie was consistent Saturday afternoon, hitting 15 greens in regulation and recording four birdies and an eagle. He came to the 17th hole one behind Bettencourt and, after an eagle chip from 20 yards away found the bottom of the cup, he had a brief stint in sole possession of the lead. Shortly after that, Bettencourt would covert a two-putt birdie and take a share of the lead heading into the 18th.
He then hit what he thought was his best shot of the day, a 5-iron from 172 yards up the hill into the wind to about 15 feet.
Even though he didn’t convert the birdie effort, those shots will help him with the pressure of being in contention in the final round. The Australian has never played in the final group on Sunday in any of his previous 72 starts on the Web.com Tour.
This is the closest La’Cassie has come to possibly earning his PGA Tour card. He started the week 33rd on the Regular Season money list and is fully aware of what a victory on Sunday would mean to his future.
“Playing the PGA Tour is why you play this tour,” he said “And getting my first win out here would be nice.”
--Sunday’s play will be in threesomes off the first and 10th tees starting at 8:00 a.m. with an expected finish time of 3:00 p.m. CT.
--Miguel Angel Carballo came into this week with one goal in mind, earning a PGA Tour card for the 2013-14 season.
“My goal coming into the week was to finish in the top 10,” he said. “If I do that then I know for sure I will have a spot on the PGA Tour.”
Carballo is currently 29th on the money list, but a 65 on Saturday with the wind picking up puts him in a tie for seventh. With several players currently inside the top 25 missing the cut, Carballo has a great chance to reach his goal.
--Michael Putnam’s 65 on Saturday might not tell the full story of how bad he wants to finish the Regular Season No. 1 on the money list. Putnam walked off of No. 9, his 18th hole, on Friday afternoon and passed out in the scoring trailer. He had been vomiting and feeling sick since before his second round started.
“I felt bad in the morning, I knew something wasn’t right,” he said. “If I would have had to play for 30 more minutes, there is no way I would have made it.”
Putnam did make it, carding a 66 and following that up with a stellar round on Saturday. He sits in a tie for fourth and knows that only Ben Martin, who is in a tie for 57th, can catch him. Despite the large margin between the two in the standings, Putnam is only concerned with himself and “controlling what he can control.”
--The 315-yard ninth hole continues to be an easy mark. The drivable par 4, which has been the easiest par 4 on the Web.com Tour for the past seven consecutive years, is currently yielding a scoring average of 3.503. There have been a total of 11 eagles through three rounds. There were a total of 18 eagles on that hole in both 2007 and 2008, the most in any single year.
--The Web.com Tour heads east next week for the first of the four Finals events. The inaugural Hotel Fitness Championship will be played at Sycamore Hills Golf Club in Fort Wayne, Ind.