By Dave Senko, PGA TOUR staff
OVERLAND PARK, Kan. – With one win on his resume already in 2013, rookie Chesson Hadley will be looking for win number two when final-round play begins on Sunday at the Midwest Classic Presented by Cadillac at the Jack Nicklaus Golf Club at LionsGate. Hadley fired an 8-under-par 63 and has a 54-hole total of 198. He leads 36-hole leader Paul Claxton by one stroke and Jamie Lovemark by two.
A Georgia Tech product, Hadley won the Rex Hospital Open last month in Raleigh where he fired a final-round 64 to come from five strokes back to defeat Danny Lee by two strokes. The win came in just his 13th start on the Web.com Tour.
“The putter felt really good today,” said Hadley, who needed just 22 putts on the way to his bogey-free 63. His round included a remarkable run of 14 one-putts over his final 16 holes. He birdied four of his final five holes, including birdies on Nos. 16-18.
“It was an awesome round today. I got off to a good start which is key for me,” Hadley added. “I played with Jamie (Lovemark) and I really enjoy playing with him. He’s a good friend and I felt relaxed out there. I can’t stress enough how important it is for me to be comfortable out there.”
Currently third on the 2013 Web.com Tour money list, Hadley will be looking to join Michael Putnam as a multiple winner on Tour.
“It’s hard to follow up a good round with another, but I think if I go and put together another round with no bogeys again, I definitely think I’ll be hard to beat, but it’s easier said than done,” Hadley said.
One of the players he’ll be looking to hold off is Paul Claxton. A day after shooting a 7-under-par 64, Claxton posted an impressive 4-under-par 67, a round which included two bogeys and a double.
Despite his various missteps, Claxton still recorded six birdies and an eagle. At one point he had a run of four holes where he was 5-under-par (Nos. 13-16). His eagle on No. 14 came when he drained a 40-foot putt.
“The putter really bailed me out today,” Claxton said. “I made that double bogey on No. 1, but the birdie on No. 2 turned things around and it really got me back in it. It was a big point in the round for me, but I’m really happy how I finished. You know some days when you start like I did it can go the other way, but it’s great to be back in it and have a chance on Sunday.”
With the threat of inclement weather in the forecast on Sunday, tournament officials moved up the tee times to 7:30-9:40 a.m. off both the 1st and 10th tees.
Midwest Classic News and Notes: The start of play was delayed for nearly three hours when thunderstorms moved through the area… In the previous two Midwest Classics, the only 54-hole leader to win was James Nitties in 2011. Last year’s 54-hole leader, Matt Weibring, finished T4… Adam Crawford and Ryan Spears joined Chesson Hadley with the low round of the day – 63… Saturday’s scoring average was more than two strokes lower than Friday’s average. The field averaged 68.494 on Saturday compared to 71.200 on Friday… Jamie Lovemark will join Chesson Hadley and Paul Claxton in the final grouping on Sunday. The 2010 Web.com Tour Player of the Year, Lovemark is still trying to come back from 2011 back surgery. His best finish this year in 13 previous starts was a T7 last week at the Utah Championship… Kevin Tway continues to climb up the leaderboard. The former Oklahoma Stater was T93 after an opening-round 72, but rounds of 67-65 have him T16 after 54 holes.