Cantlay cards pair of eagles for a three-shot lead at the Hotel Fitness Championship

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August 31, 2013
By Jeff Shain, PGATOUR.COM; wire services

FORT WAYNE, Ind. -- Patrick Cantlay opened a three-stroke lead Saturday in the Hotel Fitness Championship, a week after the former UCLA star missed a chance to wrap up a PGA TOUR card.

Fighting a back injury, the 21-year-old Cantlay had two eagles, six birdies and a double bogey in the third round to reach 19-under 197 at Sycamore Hills in the Web.com Tour Finals opener.

"Less is more and I really try to be aware of not stretching my back out too much," said Cantlay, the winner of the Web.com Tour’s Colombia Championship in March. "Playing is actually the easy part because it's just hit a shot and walk."

Cantlay missed the cut last week in the Cox Classic in Omaha, Neb., to drop from 25th to 29th on the Web.com Tour money list. The top 25 after that event secured PGA TOUR cards for the 2013-14 season, while Nos. 26-75 are fighting with Nos. 126-200 in the PGA TOUR’s FedExCup standings for 25 additional cards in the four-event Web.com Tour Finals series.

Cantlay eagled the par-5 second and followed with a birdie on No. 3. After the double bogey on the par-4 sixth, he birdied Nos. 9 and 10, eagled the par-5 12th and added birdies on Nos. 15-17.

"I'm pretty good at letting stuff roll off my back," Cantlay said about the double bogey. "The birdies on 9 and 10 were big, and the eagle on 12 got me in the zone and I just tried to ride the wave all the way in."

Kevin Kisner was second after a 63.

"I'm just going to have to stay aggressive," Kisner said. "Just try and make as many birdies as I can tomorrow."

Web.com Tour money champion Michael Putnam was tied for third at 14 under with 2008 Masters winner Trevor Immelman, Arron Oberholser, Bobby Gates, Scott Gardiner and Bud Cauley. Putnam and Immelman shot 69, Oberholser and Cauley had 68s, Gates shot 64, and Gardiner had a 66.

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Sean O'Hair (64) is T11.

O'HAIR SEEING RED (FINALLY)

Even when he was playing well, Sean O’Hair hadn’t seen numbers this deeply red next to his name in a long time. And considering his form in 2013, even he wasn’t sure how his nervous system would stand up.

He learned he still has the stomach for it.

“It’s a confidence thing,” said O’Hair, whose 8-under 64 at the Hotel Fitness Championship was one shot off the week’s best. He finished the day tied for 11th, a jump of 33 spots on the leaderboard in the Web.com Tour Finals opener.

“When you’re not putting numbers on the board for a long period of time (and) you start shooting a low round, it’s kind of getting comfortable with it again. … Shooting these low scores gets the juices going again, which is nice.”

You have to go back to the 2010 World Golf Championship-Bridgestone Invitational to find the last time O’Hair went as low as 64. His best this year has been a pair of 66s -- one of which still didn’t get him through to the weekend.

It’s been that kind of year for O’Hair, who missed the cut in 15 of 22 starts and all but one since THE PLAYERS Championship in May. That followed a 2012 season in which he missed just four cuts all year.

“I was close to playing really, really well,” said O’Hair, a four-time PGA TOUR winner. “So I had some expectations coming into this year, and early in the year I just struggled.”

O’Hair missed his first three cuts of the year, then tied for 16th at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am and 18th at The Honda Classic before the bottom fell out. His best finish since that point was a share of 40th at the Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by MasterCard, after closing with a 75.

“The Florida Swing is a time I usually start playing well,” O’Hair said. “Then I just started tinkering, using a bunch of different coaches and trying to find something that would work.”

O’Hair’s spiral eventually dropped him to 170th in FedExCup points, landing him a spot in the Web.com Tour Finals. Though he can’t wipe out a lost 2013, he’s hoping a simplified outlook will help him use the series to push the reset button on his year.

“I’m not starting from scratch, but it sort of feels that way,” he said. “You’ve just got to embrace it and say, ‘You know what, if I learn from my mistakes, I can be better off in the long run.’ Hopefully that’s the case.

STEPPING ON THE GAS

Kevin Kisner thought he was moving up nicely after completing his first six holes at Sycamore Hills in 3-under par. A check of the leaderboard gave him a bit of a rude awakening.

“I thought I was doing pretty good, and I hadn’t moved up,” he said.

Properly kicked in the backside, Kisner pushed the envelope and was rewarded with a 9-under 63 that matched the tournament record. Five birdies in the last seven holes moved him to sole possession of second, three shots behind leader Patrick Cantlay.

“That was kind of the goal -- get back in the hunt,” he said. “Once I saw the guys going low, I knew I had to get it going. I was glad to do it on the back side.”

Kisner already has his PGA TOUR promotion for next season, winning the Chile Classic on the way to finishing 13th on the Web.com Tour money list. But he’s still playing for priority on the entry list, so this is no time to let up.

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Seung-Yul Noh (64) is T9.

BIG SAVE FOR NOH

Seung-Yul Noh carded eight birdies and an eagle in his third-round 64. His bogey at No. 18, though, might have been just as impressive.

The 22-year-old South Korean pulled his drive at the par-4 closing hole, watching his situation go from bad to worse when his ball caromed off a tree and into a creek. Then he had to take his penalty drop behind two trees.

With no chance to reach the green, Noh ran a low shot down almost to where the creek crosses the fairway in front about 70 yards from the green. His wedge, though, checked back too quickly and left him a 25-foot bogey save.

Noh managed to roll it home, moving into a tie for ninth.

“I was really happy for the save,” he said. “One shot (could be) a big difference tomorrow.”

It capped a stellar day on the greens for Noh, who worked on adjusting his alignment during an open week before coming to Indiana. He discovered his ball position had drifted too far to the left, prompting him to push everything to the right.

On Saturday, he drained a 70-footer for eagle at No. 2 and added a handful of birdies from 15 to 20 feet. “I’m giving myself a good chance now,” he said.

JUST LIKE HOME

Bobby Gates and Roland Thatcher were paired together for the first three rounds, turning the week into a bit of an extension of their days at home.

“Roland and I play every morning at home together,” said Gates, like Thatcher a member of The Woodlands outside Houston. “I think both of us just kind of fed off the calm and relaxed attitude we both have. Just another day at home playing golf.”

The vibe seems to have worked thus far. Gates also fired a 64 on Saturday to grab a share of third, while Thatcher was another four shots back after a 68.

Sunday’s final round, however, will change the routine. Gates will play in the next-to-last group with Scott Gardiner, with Thatcher seven groups ahead.

DIVOTS

-- Play on Sunday will be off of No. 1 tee, with the first tee time 7:30 a.m. and the last at 1:00 p.m. Play is expected to finish at 5:00 p.m. ET.

-- Bobby Gates leads the field with 22 birdies.

-- First-round leader Scott McCarron (64-75) shot 67 today to improve 18 spots to T16.

-- Bogey-free rounds:

R1 – Troy Matteson (65), Arron Oberholser (66), Roland Thatcher (67)
R2 –  Michael Putnam (63), Trevor Immelman (66), Glen Day (66), David Mathis (67), Bill Lunde (68), Peter Malnati (68), Bhavik Patel (66)
R3 – Patrick Cantlay (64), Kevin Kisner (63), Alistair Presnell (66), Troy Merritt (66), Sean O’Hair (64), Jeff Klauk (68), Brice Garnett (68), Alexandre Rocha (68), Luke List (67) and Nick O’Hern (66).

-- The Web.com Tour Finals continue next week with the Chiquita Classic at River Run Country Club in Davidson, N.C.

COURSE STATISTICS: SYCAMORE HILLS GC

  Front (36) Back (36) Total (72)
Round 1 35.271 35.395 70.667
Round 2 35.252 35.535 70.535
Round 3 34.535 34.944 69.479
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