For Australian Steven Bowditch, the numbers just don’t match the scorecard. Bowditch hit only eight of 18 greens in regulation during Saturday’s third round of the Soboba Golf Classic but managed to shoot an 8-under 63 and take command of the Nationwide Tour’s $1 million event.
Bowditch posted a tournament-record 16-under 197 for 54 holes and will take a two-stroke lead into Sunday’s chase for the $180,000 first-place check, the richest on the Nationwide Tour. Bowditch is No. 76 on the money list and has a chance to move inside the top 15 on the money list with a win Sunday. The 25 leading money winners will earn 2011 PGA Tour cards following the Nationwide Tour Championship at Daniel Island in four weeks.
Colombia’s Camilo Benedetti, who is No. 77 on the money list, matched the course record with a 9-under 62 Saturday afternoon and holds down second place at 14 under with second-round leader Keegan Bradley (68).
Utah’s Daniel Summerhays (67) and transplanted Texan B.J. Staten (68) share fourth place at 13 under. Kyle Stanley (66) is in sixth place, four back of the leader.
Bowditch moved to the front of the pack thanks to one of those rarest of days on the greens.
“I hit it terrible today. It was as bad as I’ve hit it in a while,” said the 27-year-old from New South Wales. “I just holed everything I looked at, it’s that simple. There was no in-between. You can’t putt any better.”
Golf is a simple game when you play 18 holes and finish with 18 official putts.
Bowditch’s efforts tied Mike Brisky’s Nationwide Tour record for the fewest putts in a single round. Brisky set the mark despite hitting only seven greens in regulation during a second-round 64 at the 2003 Preferred Health Systems Wichita Open.
Bowditch holed 15- and 20-footers for birdie and 10-footers for par. He canned 8- and 6-footers for par and chipped in once for one birdie. He capped the day by rolling one in from 15 feet on the back fringe on the final hole for birdie to finish two in front of Benedetti, whose round of 62 bettered his previous career low by three shots.
“I think (the hole) got smaller as the day went on, to be honest,” said Bowditch, who is No. 3 in putting on Tour this year. “You didn’t want to miss one. The thing I had going today was speed. The greens were quicker and I had good speed.”
Bowditch has now posted consecutive rounds of 64-63 to reach the top of the leaderboard after 54 holes for the first time since he won the 2005 Jacob’s Creek Open Championship in Australia.
As for Sunday’s finale, Bowditch’s approach is simple.
“Just hit it better and keep making putts.”
Third-Round Notes: Camilo Benedetti’s 62 bettered his previous career low score by three strokes. Benedetti had posted 65 three different times, but each of those came on par-70 courses. … Justin Smith had a hole-in-one at the 141-yard fourth hole. … Through 54 holes, there have been eagles recorded on 10 different holes – two par 3s, three par 5s and five different par 4s. … Steven Bowditch is No. 5 in Putting Average this year (1.739) but ranks No. 133 in Driving Accuracy (54.86%) and No. 129 in Greens in Regulation (66.29%). Despite his stellar efforts on the greens, Bowditch is only No. 64 in Total Birdies with 230. Tommy Gainey, a two-time winner this year and No. 3 on the money list, leads the Tour with 333 birdies. … The third-round scoring average for the par-71 layout was 69.758.