Saturday’s traditional ‘moving day’ turned out to be more of a NASCAR event than golf tournament at the Nationwide Chiquita Classic. Instead of a few players chalking up birdies and gaining on the leaders, the entire field put the hammer down and piled up birdie after birdie. The assault on par at the TPC River’s Bend Course continued at a record pace and when the dust settled after 54 holes, South Carolina’s Tommy Gainey emerged as the leader at 24 under par.
Gainey’s 24-under score matches Arjun Atwal’s Nationwide Tour record for most strokes under par after 54 holes. Atwal led by three at the 2008 Chattanooga Classic but needed a playoff to win on Sunday.
“There’s still one more round to be played,” said Gainey, who is looking to become the Tour’s first two-time winner in 2010. “I don’t think it can get any better but just because I’ve shot in the low 60s three days in a row, I’ve still got one day left, and with all these players out here, there’s still a lot of work left to do.”
Gainey matched the course record with a 10-under 62 to give himself a four-stroke lead over Colt Knost, who fired an 8-under 64 and still lost ground to Gainey, who held a one-stroke lead after 36 holes.
“It happens,” said Knost. “He’s playing really well and there’s nothing I can do to control him. I’m in great position. It’s four shots and you can make that up in a hurry out here.”
Saturday’s scoring average for the par-72 layout was 68.397.
“This golf course is get-able and anybody can get hot and start making putts, just like I did today, and they can shoot 62,” said the leader, who has posted scores of 64-66-62. His 192 total also matches the third-lowest 54-hole score in Tour history.
With the entire field blistering the course for birdie, Gainey held his ground. He rolled in a 12-footer for birdie at No. 3 and then chipped in from 35 feet for eagle at the par-4 fourth.
“My game play is always aggressive until it’s time to back off,” said the man nicknamed ‘Two Gloves.’ “I’m just trying to make every putt I get over.”
Gainey hasn’t backed off, or up, yet. He continues to attack a course that has been softened by nearly three inches of rain this week. He leads the tournament in greens in regulation, hitting 47 of 54 thus far.
“Everything’s working this week,” said the leader in his relaxed, southern drawl. “It’s the best job ever. I’m just trying to enjoy and play well and trying to have fun doing so.”
Third-Round Notes: Through 14 events there has yet to be a two-time winner on the Nationwide Tour this year. If Tommy Gainey were to win on Sunday, it would match the third-longest time period before a double-winner emerged. It took 23 events before Michael Christie became the first two-time winner. Joe Ogilvie won for the second time in the 16th event in 1998. It took 15 events in both 1995 and 2008 before any player won twice. … Tournament officials moved the tee forward on the par-4 fourth hole and had it play 275 yards to the front of the green and 300 yards to the hole. The hole played as the easiest on the course Saturday with a scoring average of 3.338. Amazingly, there were more eagles registered (4) than bogeys (3) on the hole. There were also 40 birdies and 21 pars.
Rookie Jamie Lovemark equaled his season-low score with a 64. Lovemark already has a win and four other top-5 finishes this year, helping him to reach No. 3 on the money list. His 8-under round pushed him to 16 under for the week and moved him into a tie for seventh place. … Dave Schultz matched his career-low round with a 9-under 63. It’s the third time in his career he’s posted a 63 and the first time since the 2009 Utah Championship. … Stephen Poole, Jason Gore, Scott Parel and Tommy Gainey each ran off a string of four consecutive birdies. That brings the total for the week to 15 players who have had such a streak.
Ted Brown matched the best birdie-eagle streak of the week with his B-E-B-B run on holes 5-8. … Hitting fairways is apparently easier to do this week. The Tour average for the year is 66.92 percent but the field is finding the short grass at a 76.61 percent clip. … The field is also above average this week in Greens in Regulation. The average this year is 69.70 percent but this week it has risen to 74.07 percent. … With Sunday’s Golf Channel finish slated for 4 p.m., fourth-round pairings will be in threesomes off the first and 10th tees. The first tee time will be at 9:00 a.m. and the final time will be 10:50 a.m.