Vegas shoots 66, maintains lead in third round at Wichita

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Rookie Jhonattan Vegas has led after all three rounds so far at the Preferred Health Systems Wichita Open.
August 08, 2009
Kin Lo, PGA TOUR Staff

WICHITA, Kan. -- Jhonattan Vegas has held a share of the lead three times in his rookie season -- all of them at the 2009 Preferred Health Systems Wichita Open.

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Vegas continued his dominating performance with a 5-under 66 in the third round to get to 16-under-par and has a two-stroke advantage over Chad Collins at 14-under. Blake Adams and Dave Schultz are tied for third at 11-under.

After starting the day with a birdie and an eagle on Nos. 1 and 2, Vegas was sailing through the front nine with a four-stroke lead over Justin Hicks until he pulled his tee shot left into the water on the par-3 eighth.

"You're going to hit bad shots, especially in this kind of wind," he remarked about the miscue. "The one on eight it was a totally horrible shot. I just kept telling myself that kind of stuff is going to happen. You've just got to keep making birdies and thinking positive."

He gave up two strokes with a double-bogey on the hole, but quickly got one back with a birdie on No. 11. Hicks, paired with Vegas, had not had a bogey through 24 holes before making four in a row on Nos. 7 through 11 and falling off the pace.

Playing in the second-to-last group, Collins started the day two shots behind Vegas at 9-under par. He briefly pulled into a tie for the lead at 13-under with a birdie on the 14th -- unbeknownst to him.

"I didn't look at the scoreboard once today," he said.

Vegas was quick to take back the lead with three birdies in a row on the 14th, 15th and 16th. He wanted one more on the par-5 18th, a hole he had birdied in both the first and second rounds. But his 3-iron second shot from 220 yards flew the green, his third rolled onto the front fringe and he got up-and-down for par.

"I really wanted a birdie on that last hole, but I'll take the par for sure," he said. By the time Vegas reached the 18th hole, winds were blowing as hard as they had all day.

Collins and Adams were the only two players without a bogey in the round -- quite an accomplishment in 100-degree heat with winds gusting up to 37 mph. If Vegas holds on to win, he could move from 81st to as high as 13th on the money list. "The 25" leading money-winners at the end of the season earn their 2010 PGA TOUR card. The 24-year-old Argentinean has not finished higher than tied for 13th in 10 events of his rookie season on the Nationwide Tour.

Collins, 30, is playing his fourth full season on the Nationwide Tour. The Cloverdale, Ind. native finished 23rd on the money list in 2007 and earned a promotion to the PGA TOUR in 2008. After finishing 174th in earnings that year, he returned to the Nationwide Tour in 2009.

"I love playing out here, but am definitely looking forward to getting back to the PGA TOUR," he said. "If I do what I did today hopefully it's good enough -- a carbon copy of today's round would be great."

Currently 53rd in Nationwide Tour earnings, Collins could get to 12th with a win on Sunday.

Another hot and blustery day is expected for the fourth round on Sunday. Play begins at 8:15 a.m. with groups of two going off the first tee in nine-minute intervals. The final group of Vegas and Collins will tee off at 12:55 p.m.

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Notebook

• Vegas has played the 563-yard par-5 second hole to 5-under par through three rounds. He has gone eagle, birdie, eagle in Rounds 1, 2 and 3. He went birdie-eagle on the first and second holes in both the first and third rounds.

• Vegas, Collins and Brandon Brown shot the low rounds of the day with 5-under-par 66s. Brown was the biggest mover on moving day, leaping 37 spots up the leaderboard from tied for 46th to tied for ninth.

• There was only one hole on the course with no birdies in the third round, the 197-yard par-3 12th. A tricky front hole location led to the highest scoring average on the hole since the event moved to Crestview Country Club in 2001.

Dave Schultz, currently tied for third at 11 under, is the son of MSNBC talk show host Ed Schultz.

• On Saturday and Sunday, Walt's Great American Sports Bar & Grill provides free cheeseburgers and fries greenside at No. 17 whenever there's a birdie -- of which there were 7 in the third round.

Front Back Total
Round 1 35.32 34.81 70.13
Round 2 35.66 35.92 71.58
Round 3 35.57 35.07 70.63
Cumulative 35.50 35.32 70.82

• Scoring averages (front/back/total):

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