CORAL SPRINGS, Fla. -- Gene Jones, fired a 4-under-par 68 on Thursday to open a four-stroke lead heading into the final round of the Champions Tour National Qualifying Tournament at TPC Eagle Trace.
Success at this venue should come as no surprise. Jones was the 2007 co-medalist withRick Rhoden when the event was staged here and the pair finished four strokes better than runners-up Mitch Adcock and Rick Karbowski. Jones and Rhoden finished with a 72-hole total of 9-under-par 279.
Jones started the day tied with Bobby Clampett at 7-under-par 137, but as Clampett struggled to a 77 Jones took control late in the round when he birdied three of his last four holes. He turned at 2 under and added another birdie at No. 10 but gave two strokes back with successive bogeys at Nos. 12 and 13. However, he shook off his misfortune to finish strong.
"I started off strong today and got to 2 under pretty quickly and that was key, but I've been playing well for three days and just told myself to be patient at the end and just let it happen and it did," Jones said.
While he certainly isn't overconfident, Jones knows anything can happen in this tournament.
"My lead is four strokes and I'm 11 under, but I wish it was 20 under," he added. "There is never enough cushion in these things, but if someone told me I'd have a little bit of a lead at this point, I'd take it.".
It was three of the last four holes that proved the difference on Thursday. He hit a lob wedge to 3 feet for birdie at No. 15, a near-perfect 7-itron to 15 feet at No. 16 for another and closed his day by draining a 25-footer at No. 18 for his final birdie.
Friday's final round should be an interesting one as players jockey for the five fully-exempt spots for 2013.
Mouland, who posted the day's low round, a 6-under-par 66, has played in 11 events the past two seasons but has never been fully exempt. He has earned conditional-exempt status in the last two q-school finals.
Jeff Brehaut, who is currently third, has over 500 combined starts on the PGA TOUR and Web.com Tour.
Others currently on the leaderboard include current Champions Tour players Jeff Hart, Jim Rutledge and P.H. Horgan (all tied for fourth at 5 under) along with newcomers Esteban Toledo and Chie-Hsiang Lin.
There will be no cut in the 72-hole qualifier. At the end of 72 holes, the top-5 finishers earn fully-exempt status through the re-order in the 2013 season, while the next seven players will be conditionally exempt. In addition, the top 30 finishers and ties will be eligible to compete for spots in open qualifiers at all co-sponsored events on the Champions Tour in 2013.
Q-school Notes: Mouland's 66 was seven strokes better than his second-round 73...The field played lift, clean and place again on Thursday...Florida professional Mark Bucek continues to climb the leaderboard. After shooting a 4-over-par 76 in the opening round, Bucek has rebounded with rounds of 68-69 to climb from a tie for 59th after the first round to a tie for 26th and is now tied for 11th...Jeff Freeman, last year's medalist, is currently tied for 16th with one round remaining. He has come back from an opening-round 74 to shoot rounds of 69-71...The field scoring average dropped a bit from the second round as the field averaged 72.308. Wednesday's average was 72.551. Jones, Lin and Jeff Hartare the only players in the 78-man field to have posted three successive sub-par rounds...Lin was a long-time player on the Asian Tour. A native of Taipei, he won two Taiwan Opens.