Wittenberg grabs lead at Chitimacha Louisiana OpenMarch 24, 2012
Joe Chemycz, Nationwide Tour staff
Broussard, LA -- Casey Wittenberg matched his career-low round with an 8-under 63 Saturday and stormed into the lead after three days at the Chitimacha Louisiana Open. Wittenberg's 18-under 195 total is four shots better than Darron Stiles (65) and second-round leader Camilo Benedetti (70) heading into the final at Le Triomphe Country Club near Lafayette.
Canada's Adam Hadwin, Paul Claxton and Rob Oppenheim all posted 3-under 68s and share fourth place, five back of the leader.
Chris Riley (66) and veteran Woody Austin (67) are six off the pace after 54 holes.
Wittenberg started the third round four back of Benedetti but made up ground with a pair of birdies to begin the day and then moved into contention with a 30-foot eagle putt at the par-5, 5th hole.
"That got my day started," said Wittenberg, who ripped a 3-wood from 260 yards on his second shot. "The conditions are soft and whenever you let players of our caliber on a soft golf course there isn't really much that you can't hit at."
The 27-year-old Memphis resident added a birdie at the par-3 8th hole to move into a share of the lead. He then took charge with three consecutive birdies midway through the back nine. Wittenberg birdied Nos. 13, 14 and 15 -- the three toughest holes on the course.
"We were trying to play aggressive golf," he said. "There's no running away and hiding on this Tour especially. We were just trying to get as many as we could out there."
Those birdies pushed him to 18-under and opened a gap on the field.
Stiles, who started the day five back, vaulted up the board with five birdies in his first six holes.
"You've got three par-5s in the first seven, that's where you have to get it done out here," he said. "With the wind today and the first few holes downwind, you had to get it done early. I looked at the scores before I came out, so I knew it was out there."
Stiles closed with a couple of late birdies for a 6-under 65 to get into Sunday's final pairing with Wittenberg.
Benedetti had three birdies in his first five holes but was shut out the rest of the day, managing 12 pars and a bogey coming in and settling for a one-under round of 70.
"It was solid. In my mind I probably shot 6-under," said Benedetti, who posted scores of 66-63 to open the week. "I hit a lot of good putts again. They didn't go in. The same way they were going in the first couple of days, they were just not going in today. I hit so many that were three feet from the hole and I thought I made them. They either stayed straight or broke more than I thought. It is what it is."
• Saturday's weather: Sunny. Winds N 5-10 mph. High of 82.
• Lift, clean and place conditions were in effect for the first round and second round but NOT for round three.
• Steve LeBrun played the first 48 holes without a bogey. LeBrun made a quick run up the board early Saturday and was 6-under through his first 11 holes to get to 11 under. LeBrun then stumbled with a double-bogey at the difficult 13th hole and a bogey at the 14th. He finished with a 4-under 67 and is 9 under (204) and T20.
• Paul Claxton's birdie-free streak came to an end after 45 holes. Claxton made a bogey 5 at the par-4 10th hole. He rebounded with a pair birdies after that and shot a 3-under 68 (T4).
• Nine of 18 54-hole leaders/co-leaders have gone on to win this tournament, including four of the last five:
2011 Brett Wetterich 2009 Bubba Dickerson 2008 Gavin Coles 2007 Skip Kendall
63 (9-under) 2011 Mexico Open, R2 63 (9-under) 2011 Price Cutter Charity Championship, R3 63 (8-under) 2012 Chitimacha Louisiana Open, R3
• Casey Wittenberg's career-low scores:
• This is only the second time Casey Wittenberg has held/shared the 54-hole lead in his Nationwide Tour career. Wittenberg was at 15-under 199 after three rounds of the 2008 Ford Wayne Gretzky Classic and led by one. He shot a 1-under 70 in the final round and wound up losing a playoff to Justin Hicks.
• This is Casey Wittenberg's career-low 54-hole score. His previous best was a 199 (15-under) at the 2008 Ford Wayne Gretzky Classic.
6 strokes Robert Garrigus 2004 5 strokes John Wilson 1998 5 strokes Keith Fergus 1995 4 strokes Guy Hill 2000 4 strokes Casey Wittenberg 2012 3 strokes Skip Kendall 2007
• Largest 54-hole leads in tournament history:
• In the 18 previous times that this event has been contested over 72 holes, there has been an outright leader after 54 holes on 17 occasions. The only time that there were co-leaders after three rounds was in 2009 when Bubba Dickerson and Scott Sterling were tied at 9-under par. Dickerson went on to win in a playoff.
• Sweden's Jonas Blixt posted his second straight bogey-free 67. He is a 10-under 203 after three rounds. Blixt has now played the last 41 holes without a bogey.
• Players who were bogey-free in the third round:
63 -- Casey Wittenberg 67 -- Jonas Blixt 69 -- Robert Streb
• Players who were bogey-free in the second round:
63 -- Adam Hadwin 65 -- Paul Claxton, Darron Stiles, Fernand Mechereffe, Woody Austin, Shawn Stefani 67 -- Rob Oppenheim, Jonas Blixt, Josh Broadaway, Kent Jones 68 -- Steve Wheatcroft 69 -- Justin Bolli, Steve LeBrun
• Players who were bogey-free in the first round:
63 -- Will MacKenzie 64 -- Brett Wetterich 65 -- Stephen Gangluff 67 -- Omar Uresti, Paul Claxton 68 -- Steve LeBrun 69 -- Fabian Gomez
• The most difficult hole through three rounds is the 485-yard, 14th which has a scoring average of 4.294. Only four players in the field of 65 managed to birdie the hole Saturday- Casey Wittenberg, Paul Claxton, Patrick Sheehan and Steve Wheatcroft.
Round Front 9 (36) Back 9 (35) Total (71) Cumulative R1 34.736 35.049 69.785 --- R2 34.929 34.262 69.191 69.491 R3 34.523 34.862 69.385 69.471
• Scoring averages for the week:
• The Nationwide Tour will take next week off before heading to California for two consecutive weeks. The Tour's next stop will be in San Jacinto, Calif. (near Palm Springs) for the Soboba Golf Classic at The Country Club at Soboba Springs in the first week of April.