BOGOTA, Colombia -- Veteran Steve Pate posted his second straight bogey-free 66 on Saturday and moved into the lead after 54 holes of the Pacific Rubiales Bogota Open.
Pate's 11-under 202 total is two shots better than Texan Tag Ridings (70), the second-round leader who birdied the final hole to get within two.
Rookies William McGirt (70) of South Carolina and Zack Miller (65) of California share third place at 8 under with Aaron Watkins (67). Another Californian, Jeff Brehaut, moved into contention with a 5-under 66 and holds down solo sixth, four back of Pate.
While the Nationwide Tour's first venture into South America and the Bogota Country Club course continue to draw high praise, the story so far has been the 48-year old Pate, who started his PGA TOUR career back in 1985 and is counting the days until he turns 50 and becomes eligible for the Champions Tour.
"I have no idea what's going on," chuckled Pate after his round. "I'm hitting it well. I'm not doing anything stupid. Even though I have wedges in my hand I'm making sure it's on the green, short of the hole and trying to putt uphill as much as possible. It seems to be working out."
Pate's place at the top is directly related to his conservative approach to the tree-lined layout 30 minutes north of downtown Bogota.
"I don't think this course lends itself to aiming at pins. You have to think out here," he said. "You don't have to hit it long and you don't have to hit it hard, which fits perfectly with my game."
Pate's dink-and-dunk strategy has resulted in a tournament-low three bogeys.
"I've had two or three shots each day that feels really good and I aim it. Other than that, I'm just hitting it on the green," said the six-time PGA TOUR winner. "That's the way I normally play -- slop in a couple of 30-footers now and then, hit a couple close, don't make any mistakes and it's a pretty good score."
Pate made only one 20-footer for birdie on Saturday, along with one from 10 feet and three more from inside six feet. Birdies at No. 13, 16 and 18 pushed him past the field and into first place for the first time in any of his 72 Nationwide Tour starts. The last time he was atop the board after three rounds on any Tour was the 1992 Buick Invitational of California, which he won when the tournament was shorted to 54 holes. The last time he slept on a 54-hole lead was the 1991 Honda Classic -- this week's PGA TOUR stop. He led by five back then, shot 75 but still won by three.
"It's been a long time since I was in this position," he said. "It doesn't feel like luck. I'm healthy enough that it feels like I know what I'm doing. Every time I've gotten anything going over the last few years, it's been luck. My body's in horrible shape and it's just a matter of time before I start shanking it and hitting it fat. I may go out and vomit all over myself tomorrow but it's fun to be in this position."
* Kevin Chappell was the first man off the tee this morning. The former UCLA All-America wasted no time in posting a 5-under 66 to vault up the leaderboard. Chappell needed only 2 hours, 11 minutes, to complete his round, which included seven birdies. Chappell was 6 under after 17 holes and needed to birdie the closing par-5, 18th to set a new course record. An errant tee shot into the trees forced Chappell into a scrambling mode and he wound up making a bogey-6. When he completed play, he had moved into a tie for 8th place. He is tied for 16th heading into Sunday's finale.
* Rookie Zack Miller of Stanford (Economics, 2007) birdied the final hole to match the course record with a 6-under 65. Miller stands at 8-under 205 for the first 54 holes and is tied for third. Miller has conditional status and is making his first start this year as a member and the third of his career. He has made one cut in his previous two attempts, a tie for 63rd at the 2009 Cox Classic in Omaha.
* Local favorite Manuel Villegas fired an even round of 71 and is 1-under 212 after three days. Villegas is tied for 36th place.
* Leading money-winner Bobby Gates eagled the par-5 18th for a 3-under 68. Gates is also at 1-under 212 and tied for 36th place.
* Peter Gustafsson of Sweden has birdied the eighth and ninth holes each of the first three days. He is 6 under on those two holes and 1 over on the other 48.