VALDOSTA, Ga. -- After two days of holding sole possession of the lead, Paul Dickinson finally has company atop the leaderboard at the Nationwide Tour's inaugural South Georgia Classic.
|INSIDE THE NUMBERS|
|JONES VS. DICKINSON THRU 54 HOLES|
While Dickinson struggled on Saturday with a 1-over 73, he still holds a share of the top spot at 8-under-par 208, but is now joined there by Australian Matthew Jones (70).
John Kimbell (71), who won a Hooters Tour event in 2006 at this same par-72 Kinderlou Forest Golf Club, holds sole possession of third place at 7-under-par 209.
Dickinson, who punched his ticket into this week's event by recording a 66 during a pre-tournament qualifier on Monday, had been spectacular during the first two rounds with just one bogey. That all changed on Saturday as he stumbled out of the gate with a double bogey on the par-4 third hole and then bogeys on Nos. 4, 10, 13 and 15. Those missteps opened the door for Jones and Company to join the fray at the $600,000 event.
"It was brutal today," said Dickinson. "I was all over the place. I'm actually glad I shot 1 over and in the position that I am. My mind got a little out of sorts there on the back nine. I just tried my hardest to stay focused and stay in the present. It was really windy and the course was really fast. On top of that, the course is so long. Man, it was a long day. I'm just glad I got out of there without hurting myself."
After making the turn with a 1-over 37, Jones made his move on Dickinson with an eagle-3 on the 566-yard 11th hole -- set up by a beautiful 8-iron from 195 yards. After calmly dropping in a 30-foot putt for eagle, he played steady golf the rest of the way with six pars and a birdie on the par-5 14th hole.
"I rolled it pretty good today," said Jones, a 26-year-old native of New South Wales, Australia. "My speed is getting better and if that keeps happening I should be good. I haven't played well this year so it's nice to be in contention. This year has been a struggle but one win could turn that all around."
Several other players moved into contention with rounds that would have been commendable in perfect weather, but were even more impressive in the 20-25 mph wind gusts that pelted the Davis Love-designed course.
Justin Bolli, winner of the 2004 Chattanooga Classic, held the clubhouse lead for awhile on Saturday before being passed by the leaders later in the afternoon. Birdies out of the bunker on Nos. 2 and 11 keyed a round that consisted of five birdies and no bogeys. He sits alone in fourth place at 6 under.
"I capitalized on my birdie opportunities," said Bolli. "It was one of those days where everything worked out. I hear it is going to blow even harder tomorrow so I'll have to be patient and hit it low."
Aaron Watkins, a 24-year-old native of Winter Park, Fla., posted the round of the day with a bogey-free 6-under 66. He is joined at 5-under-par 211 by Aussie Aron Price (71), 2001 U.S. Public Links Champion Chez Reavie (71) and four-time PGA TOUR winner Carlos Franco (72).
"I'm just happy to have made the cut and be playing this weekend," said Watkins. "I bogeyed the last hole on Friday and thought I would miss the cut by a stroke. So needless to say I'm happy to still be here. Today's round was a complete 180-degree turn from the second round. I made a lot more putts and hit the ball really solid."
Third-Round News & Notes: Due to forecast weather overnight and early Sunday morning, the starting times for the final round will be from 10:30 a.m. until 12:30 p.m. Play will be in groups of three off of split tees ... How strong is the field this week in Valdosta? Not only did 35 PGA TOUR winners tee it up, a total of 29 players in Valdosta are scheduled to play in next week's Zurich Classic of New Orleans. In addition, seven players in this week's field are currently in the top 10 on next week's alternate list ... There were three bogey-free rounds on Saturday (Aaron Watkins, 66; Justin Bolli, 67; Scott Gutschewski, 68), bringing the total of such rounds to 14 this week ... The scoring average during the third round was 73.129. The toughest hole was the par-4 18th hole with a 4.371 average, yielding just one eagle (Ron Whittaker) and three birdies. The par-5 11th hole yielded four eagles and ranked the easiest at 4.371. By comparison, there were only three eagles on the entire course during the first two days ... The 54-hole leader has gone on to win three of five tournaments this season on the Nationwide Tour, including most recently Omar Uresti at the Livermore Valley Wine Country Championship.
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