By Joe Chemycz, Web.com Tour staff
SANTIAGO, Chile – Saturday’s third round of the Chile Classic had a little bit of everything – from a course record to a hometown favorite exciting fans as he moved into contention – and when the final putts were in, three players were tied for the 54-hole lead with a host of others within shouting distance.
Georgia’s Kevin Kisner started the sun-baked birdie barrage with a blistering 11-under 61, breaking the Prince of Wales Country Club course record by three strokes and setting the target at 17-under 199.
Santiago native Benjamin Alvarado grabbed the spotlight with a 6-under 66 that gave him a share of the lead and insured a big, vocal crowd for Sunday’s finale.
Second-round leader Edward Loar of Dallas settled for a 3-under 69 after a pair of opening 65s but it was still enough give him a spot at the top.
Brice Garnett (68) is in at 16-under and one off the lead while Troy Merritt (64), Jason Gore (66) and Danny Lee (70) are three back at minus-14.
“This is a party for the people here,” said Alvarado, whose 3-putt bogey at the final hole cost him sole possession of the lead. “We don’t have many tournaments like this in Chile. I think it will be nice to have a lot of people here pushing me to win the tournament.”
Kisner caused the early buzz with nine birdies and an eagle that gave him a three-stroke lead as the final groups were heading to the third tee.
“I made a lot of 10 and 15-footers, which you do anytime you shoot low,” he said. “It seems like as soon as you look up you think ‘dang, that’s going in too.’ You start making some putts and get in the rhythm of the round and a couple of good things happen.”
It was nothing but good things for the 29-year-old former Bulldog who started slowly and was only 1 under after five holes before catching fire.
“You make a few birdies in a row on the back and then the eagle at 14 and then you’re thinking we can do something special,” he said. “Probably the more you think the more you get in your way and so you try not to do that and just keep looking at the flag. They sure are fun though. I wish they’d happen more often.”
Alvarado reeled off four birdies in a row starting at No. 8 and his 30-footer at No. 12 pushed him into the lead at minus-18. The former All-American from Arizona State then hacked his way back and forth the par-4, 14th and stumbled to a double-bogey.
“I hit a solid driver but it was in the thick rough. I tried to lay up but the rough was terrible,” he said. “I went from one to the other, then in the bunker, chunked it over the green and back in the rough. These things happen.”
Alvarado came back with two birdies in a row and looked like he’d have the lead by himself before taking three putts from 50 at the par-5, 18th.
“It looks like it’s going to be a shootout,” said Loar of the closing round. “It ought to create a pretty good atmosphere.”
Loar was solid again but couldn’t get the putts to drop and admitted he cast an eye to a leaderboard, which highlighted several players posting low numbers.
“The thing that’s difficult sometimes is when I come out here and you see guys are really taking it deep and you try not to put extra pressure on yourself to try and match it,” he said. “It’s a long four days and you’re probably going to have a spell where you don’t feel like you maximize your golf. It’s hard to shoot 65 every day.”
Third-Round Notes & Quotes:
-- Saturday weather: Sunny. Wind light, from the south. High of 86.
-- Paul Haley posted a 21-under total of 195 en route to a six-stroke lead after 54 holes last year. He went on to shoot a 71 on the last day to win the inaugural Chile Classic by three shots.
-- Loar has held the 54-hole lead only once in his career – the 2012 Panama Claro Championship, which he went on to win.
-- Kisner missed the cut in his first two starts this year was a cumulative 5-over par in starts at the Panama Claro Championship and Colombia Championship.
-- Kisner’s previous career low on either Tour was a 9-under 62 in the second round of the 2011 Mylan Classic, near Pittsburgh. He had five birdies and two eagles that day and tied for fifth that week.
-- Kisner has played on the PGA TOUR the past two years and made 10 cuts in 24 starts in both 2011 and 2012. He has four top-25 finishes and his only top-10 was a T10 at the 2012 RBC Canadian Open. His three-day total of 199 is also a career best, bettering the score of 200 he shot in back-to-back weeks at the 2011 News Sentinel Open and the Mylan Classic
More about Benjamin Alvarado:
-- He is a 27-year-old native of Santiago, Chile. He was a heralded junior player and after waiting 18 months following his graduation, he eventually found his way to Arizona State University as a 19-year old freshman in 2005. He was a two-time All-American for the Sun Devils and turned pro following graduation in 2008.
-- He is a two-time winner of the Chile Open (2003, 2010) and also won the 2002 Orange Bowl tournament and the 2003 Southern Amateur. His Chile Open win in 2010 came on this same Prince of Wales CC course where he finished with a 22-under par score, the same winning score that Paul Haley II posted for his victory in last year’s event.
-- He has made nine career starts on the Web.com Tour and made five cuts. His best finish was a T9 in this event last year. He made three cuts in six starts on Tour in 2012.
-- His only start on the PGA TOUR came at the 2011 RBC Canadian Open, where he received a sponsor exemption into the field. He posted scores of 76-71 and missed the cut.
-- He made six cuts in six starts on the 2012 LatinoAmerica Tour and had three top-10 finishes. His best week was a solo sixth at the TransAmerican Power Products Open presented by Corona in Monterrey, Mexico in mid-September.
-- He won four of the five events on the Chilean Summer Tour, which served as the qualifying tournaments to gain entry into this week Chile Classic.
-- Players who were bogey free in Round 3:
61 – Kevin Kisner
68 – Ben Martin
69 – Jamie Lovemark
70 – Ryan Spears
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|By the numbers|
-- Did You Know About Chile? – Chile fills a narrow 2,880-mile strip between the Andes Mountains and the Pacific Ocean. At the southern tip of Chile’s mainland is Punta Arenas – the southernmost city in the world. Chile also claims sovereignty over 482,628 square miles of the Antarctic territory. Chile is also one of only two countries in South America that doesn’t border Brazil. The country’s population is nearly 17 million with 5.6 million living in metropolitan Santiago.
-- The Web.com Tour will take next week off before returning to begin play in the continental United States. Next on the schedule is the Chitimacha Louisiana Open at Le Triomphe Country Club March 18-24. Last year Casey Wittenberg fired a 65 in the final round and blitzed the field by a tournament-record eight strokes, which also matched the fourth-largest winning margin in Tour history. Wittenberg made only two bogeys during the week, both were three-putts, and played the final 48 holes without a bogey. The former Oklahoma State star went on to win again in 2012, finish No. 1 on the money list and was named the Web.com Tour Player of the Year.