B.J. Staten and Peter Tomasulo share the 54-hole lead at the Nationwide Tour's Mexico Open Bicentenary. Both Staten and Tomasulo shot even-par 72 at El Bosque Country Club to remain 9-under par and one shot ahead of Californian Jeff Brehaut (70), Texan J.J. Killeen (70), Arizona resident Doug LaBelle II (71), Hugo Leon (71) of Chile, 2007 NCAA individual champion from the University of Southern California Jamie Lovemark (72), Madalitso Muthiya of Zambia (72) and Efren Serna, Jr. (64) of Mexico.
There are thirteen players lurking within three strokes of the leaders. Five of the thirteen have a Nationwide Tour win on their resume.
"It's very likely by the time Peter (Tomasulo) and I tee off tomorrow we're going to have to do some chasing," said Staten. "It seems like all the good scores are coming from the guys playing earlier in the day."
Staten and Tomasulo both agree they are pretty lucky to be at the top of the leaderboard after not playing as well as they anticipated.
"When I made the turn I looked at the scoreboard and noticed I was still up there which was kind of surprising," said Tomasulo, who turned in even-par 36. "We made a bunch of mistakes on the front nine but it turns out we're still in the final group tomorrow."
Staten opened the third-round with a four-putt bogey on the first hole. A few three-putts later, with no birdies to offset the mistakes, and he found himself four shots back of the lead going into the back nine.
"I felt like I didn't even play golf, it was like I blinked, and all of the sudden I shot 40," said Staten. "But I'd rather shoot 40-32 than the other way around any day of the week -- it takes the bad taste out of your mouth."
While Staten admits he fell asleep behind the wheel on the opening nine holes, he quickly corrected his alignment with four birdies on the inward nine. He had six feet for eagle on the final hole after hitting a hybrid from 262 yards but gladly accepted his birdie when the eagle putt burned the edge.
"To come out on the back nine and play the way I did after my front nine, I'll take it," said the lefty from Austin, Texas. "To post a good number on the back nine with these conditions in the afternoon puts a sweet taste in my mouth going into tomorrow."
Tomasulo had a bumpy front nine with an eagle, two birdies and four bogies caused primarily by multiple three-putts.
"I hit two great shots on the first hole and still ended up making bogey," said Tomasulo, who is looking for his first Nationwide Tour win since the 2005 Alberta Classic. "After driving the second green and making a 20-foot putt for eagle I thought things were going to go my way but I just couldn't keep the momentum."
Tomasulo also thinks a low number will be posted from someone playing early but he likes his chances going into the final round at El Bosque CC.
"This is a course where you can shoot a low number in the morning," he added. "If someone comes out and shoots a really good score in the morning we're just going to have to go out and play good golf. As long as I keep hitting the ball as well as I am I think I can win this tournament."
Staten is still trying to claim his first victory on the Nationwide Tour. He has come close multiple times in his career and already has two top-10 finishes this year.
"I don't think I can put into words what a win this week would do for me," said Staten. "I've been close a few times and to finally do it would get the monkey off my back. It would also put me in a really good position to earn my 2011 PGA TOUR card."
The low round of the day belonged to local favorite Efren Serna Jr., who started the day T31st at even-par 144 but now finds himself one shot behind the leaders. He posted an 8-under-par 64 which included one eagle, eight birdies and a double-bogey on the par-3 15th hole.
"I made a huge mistake on that par-3 by hitting my tee shot in the hazard," said Serna, Jr. "But it was the only mistake I made today, so I can't complain."
• Rookie Nate Smith made the cut on the number (2-over-par 146) but rebounded with a 7-under-par 65 in the third round to jump into a tie for 14th place. Smith had one eagle, five birdies and twelve pars. His playing partner, Brendan Steele, fired a 6-under-par 66 to move into a tie for 18th place. The twosome accounted for two eagles, eleven birdies and only two bogies. "It didn't feel like I hit it any differently today than I did the first two rounds," said Smith. "It was great to play with someone who was playing well too - we fed off each other all morning."
• Smith (65) posted the only bogey free score in the third round.
• Californian Brendan Steele and Mexican Efren Serna, Jr. shot 6-under 30s on the front nine in the third round.
• Rookie Brady Schnell made his first cut of the year this week. The Mexico Open Bicentenary is his sixth start this season. He was 2-under par coming into the weekend and fired a 4-under-par 68 to move to 6-under, three shots back of leaders. "I'm just trying to stay patient out here on the Nationwide Tour," said the former University of Nebraska Cornhusker. "My goal this year is to play good enough to secure my status on this Tour for 2011."
• The third-round leader/co-leader has gone on to win this event the last two years in a row.
• The third-round scoring average for the par-72 layout was 72.243.
• Sunday's expected finish time is 6:30 p.m. CT.
• Correction from yesterday's notes - 74 players made the cut at 2-over-par 146.