PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – Scott Gardiner was halfway back to the TPC Sawgrass clubhouse when his status received a major upgrade at the Web.com Tour Championship.
Not only had Chesson Hadley’s bogey-double bogey finish elevated Gardiner to the 54-hole lead at Dye’s Valley, it also left the Aussie as an unexpected front-runner to usurp the No.1 spot on the Web.com Tour Finals money list.
“I’m not really thinking about position,” said Gardiner, whose 5-under-par 65 matched Saturday’s best round. “The main objective was to get back [to the PGA TOUR]. I’m playing well, so I just want to do that again. Normally when you keep doing that, it’s a good week.”
A victory, though, would turn the week into an exceptional one. Finishing atop the Web.com Tour Finals list brings a fully exempt card, plus a guaranteed berth in THE PLAYERS Championship.
Gardiner came to Dye’s Valley at No.11 on the Finals list, already guaranteed a PGA TOUR return thanks to a tie for third at the opening Hotel Fitness Championship. Only a victory on Sunday will allow him to pass current No.1 Seung-Yul Noh, who went home to South Korea after winning two weeks ago in Columbus.
Hadley, who began the week at No.14, posted a 70 on Saturday and likewise can claim the No.1 card only with a victory. He was No.3 in regular-season money, though only Finals earnings count toward the PGA TOUR’s priority order for entering tournaments.
CHASE FOR NO.1: If neither Gardiner nor Hadley emerge as Sunday’s eventual winner, Noh figures to end up as the Finals earnings champ. The Korean pro needs someone from outside the top 30 to win the tournament and someone from outside the top nine to finish runner-up. … The next nearest threat would come from Bud Cauley, who began the week at No.18 and after Saturday’s 65 still needs to make up a four-shot deficit in the final round. Andrew Svoboda (No. 3), John Peterson (No.5) and Japan’s Ryo Ishikawa (No.10) are five shots off the pace.
BUBBLE WATCH: Two players whose bubbles seemed popped when they missed Friday’s cut are now back inside the cutoff for the final 25 PGA TOUR cards to be awarded Sunday. Ricky Barnes moved up to No.23, with Bobby Gates one spot back. … Lee Williams now sits on the bubble at No.25, following a third-round 69 that dropped him one spot to 10th on the tournament leaderboard. … Andrew Loupe had a roller-coaster day – moving well inside the line with four birdies in his first six holes, dropping well back after playing his next five holes on 4-over and finishing with a 67. That left the LSU alum tied for sixth in the tournament and No.26 in the Finals projections. … Andres Gonzales moved up to No.28 on the strength of Saturday’s 67.
BIGGEST MOVERS: Andrew Putnam, who came to Dye’s Valley at No.70 on the qualifying list, figured he’d need a top-12 finish to claim a PGA TOUR card. After a second consecutive 67, he’s three shots off the lead and now projects at No.15 for the Finals. … Rod Pampling, who pulled himself from the brink of the cut line on Friday, continued a move up the rankings with a 68 on Saturday. He began the week at No.64 in the standings, but now projects to No.22.