Greenville, S.C. -- Australian Michael Sim, the Nationwide Tour's leading money winner, is not only threatening to run away with the BMW Charity Pro-Am, but at his current pace, he might run away from the entire Tour this year. Sim carded a 9-under 62 in the third round Saturday and moved to the top of the leaderboard, a position he has quickly come to know in 2009. Sim's 20-under 195 total is three shots better than Argentina's Fabian Gomez (67) and Blake Adams (64).
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Jeff Gove (70) is at 15-under 200 and is in fourth place, with B.J. Staten (65) holding down fifth place, six back of Sim.
The tournament features celebrities and amateurs teaming with Nationwide Tour pros in a best-ball format that rotates among three courses in two different states. The top-14 teams advance to Sunday's final round, along with the low 60 pros, who will split the $700,000 purse.
"It's really relaxing out there," said Sim, who equaled the Thornblade Club course record with eight birdies, an eagle and a bogey. "I enjoy this format and having fun with the amateurs. It almost doesn't feel like a tournament."
It all has come very easy to the 24-year-old from Perth, who has had a six-stroke runaway win, a playoff loss, a third and a tie for fourth in six starts on Tour. He has pocketed more than $240,000 thus far, more than $90,000 ahead of his closest pursuer and has more than likely assured himself a return trip to the PGA TOUR in 2010. Three tournament wins will give him an "instant promotion" to the TOUR this year.
"It's exciting to play golf like this, to be in contention," he said. "My ball-striking this year has been sensational."
Saturday's third round was no exception, with Sim hitting 15 greens and canning putts from everywhere.
"The hole looked like a bucket today," said Sim, who needed only 25 putts and hasn't been slowed down too much by flu symptoms this week. "You get four or five rounds like that a year. You can pick any line, hit any stroke. It almost feels like you don't have to hit the ball that well. You just have to put it on the green."
Sim birdied four of his first five holes, but only one of the four was from beyond five feet. As he made the turn, the hole just got larger and larger. He rolled in a 14-foot birdie on his 10th hole, followed that with an 18-foot eagle on the next, a 25-footer for birdie and a 15-footer for birdie, and he still had four holes to go.
The Perth native and part-time Scottsdale resident finished things up with a 25-foot birdie putt on his closing hole.
"It was just one of those days that you get over the putter and I feel like I can't miss," he said. "It's a strange feeling. I didn't think there was any way I could miss that last putt."
Meantime, Gomez, Adams and the rest of the challengers will have to return to Thornblade for Sunday's final round in hopes of stopping the Aussie from stepping into the winner's circle for the second time in '09.
"I think it's an advantage for me to play here today," said Sim, battling headaches, sinus congestion and sneezing. "You get to play the same conditions two days in a row. It was nice to make that last putt because the good shots are still fresh in your mind."
Gomez was at 18-under par and the closest pursuer to Sim, but he had to wait out a 62-minute delay before being able to finish his round. The 30-year old from Chaco, Argentina had hit his tee shot on the final hole at Bright's Creek Country Club in Mill Spring, N.C., when rain halted play.
When play finally resumed, Gomez hit his second shot onto the green at the par-4 but wound up three-putting from 25 feet, thus giving Sim a three-shot lead over Gomez and Adams.
"I'm swinging the club really well right now," he said. "I'm approaching Sunday like any other day, just another round of golf. I have a lot of confidence built up from my solid play back home and I'm hoping it will carry over here to the U.S."
Adams made eight birdies in a bogey-free 64 at Bright's Creek, seven of them from inside 15 feet.
"I guess you could say that things came together out there today. I hit it really well," he said. "After not swinging well the first two days I felt really fortunate to have scored the way I did."
• Lift, clean and place conditions were in effect at only the Bright's Creek Country Club course. The rules were in effect for all three rounds.
• The start of play was delayed at all three courses on Saturday: 30 minutes (rain) at Carolina Country Club; 45 minutes (fog) at Bright's Creek; 60 minutes (rain) at Thornblade Club.
• Afternoon play was suspended at Bright's Creek from 5:28 p.m. with three groups left to complete one hole. Play resumed at 6:32 p.m. Play had already been completed at both Thornblade Club and Carolina Country Club.
• A total of 69 players made the 54-hole cut, which came at a tournament-record 7-under par. The previous low cut was 4-under par last year.
• Sunday's final round will feature threesomes off both the first and 10th tees. Tee times will run from 8:09 to 10:15 a.m. with an expected finish time of 4:00 p.m.
• Matt Every withdrew during the third round due to a stomach virus.
• Australian Michael Sim (68-65-62 195) is either setting records or career-bests this week:
- His 195 total set a tournament record for the lowest 54-hole score. - His 127 score matches the lowest 36-hole total in tournament history -- Jeff Klauk (62-65/17-under), 2002, Rounds 2-3 (Cliffs Valley) - His 195 total is a career best by seven strokes. His previous career-low 54-hole score was 202 at the 2006 Preferred Health Systems Wichita Open and the 2009 Stonebrae Classic. - His 62 today was a career-low round. His previous career-best was a 9-under 63 in the final round of the 2009 Athens Regional Foundation Classic, which was his last start on Tour. - This is the fourth time in his career that Sim has held/shared the 54-hole lead: 2006 Jacob's Creek Open Championship (P2); 2006 Palmetto Pride Classic (P1); 2009 Stonebrae Classic (won by 6)
• Greenville native Brent Delahoussaye was the last player in the field to make a bogey this week. His streak ended at 39 holes when he bogeyed his fourth hole of the day at Thornblade Club.
• The South Carolina tandem of Kyle Thompson and former Heisman Trophy winner George Rogers lead the pro-am division of the event. The former Gamecocks are 39-under par after 54 holes and lead by one stroke over the team of Michael Sim and singer Javier Colon. Thompson and Rogers won the event in 2002 and 2004 and were runners-up in 2003. Colon was runner-up last year with partner Colt Knost.
• Scoring averages for the three courses: