By Joe Chemycz, Web.com Tour staff
PANAMA CITY, Panama – Australian Mathew Goggin fired a 4-under 66 Saturday to move into sole possession of the 54-hole lead at the Panama Claro Championship, the initial stop on the 2013 Web.com Tour schedule. Goggin jumped to the front of the pack of with his 7-under 203 total, two shots better than Texans Bobby Gates (68) and Roland Thatcher (69) and Kevin Foley (70) of New Jersey.
Georgia’s Brendon Todd (69) is alone in fifth place, three shots back heading into Sunday’s finale.
Five others -- Chesson Hadley (67), Chris Wilson (70), Peter Tomasulo (71), Vaughn Taylor (71) and Len Mattiace (72) are four back.
Second-round leader Dae-Hyun Kim of Korea stumbled with back-to-back double-bogeys on the front nine and wound up shooting a 75 that left him T11.
The whole group is chasing Goggin, who lives in the Phoenix area and has now posted seven straight sub-par scores at the par-70 Panama Golf Club, which annually ranks among the toughest on tour. Only 16 of the 64 players who made the cut managed to break par in the third round.
Saturday’s scoring average of 71.656 marked the 36th time in 38 tournament rounds that the field has been over-par at the 7,171-yard layout. Goggin, in the meantime, is 18-under in his seven rounds and boasts a scoring average of 67.42.
“There are just courses that you like to play,” said Goggin, who came from four shots back to win here two years ago. “They may not necessarily be the finest golf courses around the world but for whatever reason it agrees with me so far.”
Goggin’s round of 66 was the best of a hot, windy day in Central America and stamped the 38-yeard old as the man to beat on a course where he has yet to lose.
“I just think the conditions suit my game,” he said. “It’s not an Australian-style golf course but I’ve had a lot of experience playing in windy, fast conditions and I’m used to having to work the ball with shaping and bounces as opposed to just flying it to the hole.”
Goggin got it close enough to run in six birdies, along with a couple of critical par-saving putts, one of which was in the 18-20 foot range.
“The lines are a bit tricky because they’re a little grainy and they get fast and have some slope in them,” he said. “You can get a bit confused and the first couple of days I wasn’t seeing the line that great and feel like I got locked in there. Today, you hit a really nice putt and you start to feel really good about it. I just got comfortable with the putter.”
Gates moved into contention by using just the right combination of drivers and 2-irons off the tees. The driver in his bag is brand new.
“It’s really easy to just line up there and let it go and you know exactly where it’s going,” he said. “I’m hitting a lot of 2-irons to get the ball in the fairways. The combination of being aggressive when I can be and knowing when to hit it in the fairway is huge. When the wind’s blowing it’s really tough because it swirls through the trees and if the ball gets moving in the wrong direction it won’t stop because it’s so firm out here.”
Third- Round Notes & Quotes:
• Saturday weather: mostly sunny, wind N 10-20 mph and a high of 93.
• Sunday’s fourth-round play will be in twosomes off the first tee. Times range from 7:36 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
• This week’s total purse is $600,000 with $108,000 to the winner.
• Fran Quinn owns the tournament’s 54-hole scoring record. He posted scores of 66-66-62 -- 194 (16-under) in 2010.
• When Mathew Goggin won here in 2011, he never held a lead through the first 54 holes. He was T16 and four back after Round 1, T7 and three back after Round 2, third and four back after Round 3.
• The largest 54-hole deficits overcome by a tournament winner were five strokes by Miguel Carballo in 2007 and four strokes by Mathew Goggin in 2011.
• Mathew Goggin is a four-time winner on the Web.com Tour, having won twice in 1999 and twice again in 2011. The 38-year-old has also made 276 career starts on the PGA TOUR. Last year, Goggin made the cut in 10 of 23 starts and had a pair of top-25 finishes and wound up No. 192 in the FedExCup standings.
• Bobby Gates, 27, finished No. 141 in the FedExCup standings last year. He made 29 starts on the PGA TOUR and his lone top-10 finish was a T8 at the Humana Challenge in partnership with the Clinton Foundation, where he posted a 63 in the second round. Gates, a Texas A&M graduate, has his wife, Lauren, caddying for him this week.
• Roland Thatcher, 35, has three career wins on the Web.com Tour. Thatcher’s first career title came at the 2002 Bank of America Monterey Peninsula Classic. He then added two more trophies in 2007 by winning the Peek’n Peak Classic and the Cox Classic.
• Taking a look at how the leader’s score after 54 holes differed from the winner’s score over the years – Expectations would be that scores got lower from Round 3 to Round 4, but that hasn’t necessarily been the case. Four times in nine year the score has actually gone in reverse (see bold items) and twice it stayed the same:
• Players who were bogey-free in the third round: None
• Best rounds of the day:
66 – Mathew Goggin
67 – Chesson Hadley
• Course statistics for the week:
• In the previous nine years of the tournament, only seven players have managed to post four straight rounds in the 60’s. This week, three players have a chance to join that group:
• Three of the five past tournament champions made the cut this week:
• This is the eighth time that the Panama Claro Championship has been the initial event on the Web.com Tour schedule. The Tour first came to Panama in 2004 and led off the year in Central America from 2004-09, 2011 and again this year. In 2010, the Tour started at the Michael Hill New Zealand Open (Queenstown) and last year opened the season at the Pacific Rubiales Colombia Championship in Bogota.
• The Web.com Tour will head to South America next week for the Colombia Championship at Bogota Country Club Feb. 28-Mar. 3. Last year, Skip Kendall rolled in a25-foot birdie putt on the 72nd hole to win by one stroke over Andres Gonzales and Andrew Svoboda and collect his third career title. Kendall fired an even-par 71 on Sunday to finish at 10-under 274. Next week’s winner will earn $126,000 from the $700,000 purse.