COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Ben Kohles still hasn't finished his first week as a professional golfer but the 22-year old All-American from Virginia has shown all the calm of a seasoned veteran at the Nationwide Children's Hospital Invitational. Kohles fired a 4-under 67 on Saturday to erase a four-shot deficit and move into first place heading into the final round of the Web.com Tour's second-richest tournament.
Kohles, who finished T18 at the Porter Cup in New York last week and turned pro five days ago when he registered for this event, stands 11-under par after three trips around the famed Scarlet Course at Ohio State University and two strokes in front of a jumbled leaderboard.
Aaron Watkins (65), Cliff Kresge (64) and Trevor Murphy (73), the leader after each of the first two weather-plagued rounds, share second place at 9-under 204.
Joseph Bramlett (70), Camilo Benedetti (69) and the Tour's only two-time winner this year, Casey Wittenberg (70) are tied for fifth and just three back of Kohles, who was twice named the Atlantic Coast Conference Player of the Year.
Five more players, including Mexico Open winner Lee Williams (66) are lurking only four off the pace, setting up a possible shootout for Sunday's top prize of $144,000.
"One of the things I wanted to do was to finish in the top-25 because I don't really have any plans after this and I wanted to play next week," said Kohles, who will get a berth in next week's Cox Classic in Omaha, Neb., if he does finish in the top-25. "Obviously I'm playing a lot better and now I'm going to go out there and try to win it."
Kohles, one of a dozen college All-Americans invited to the event, owns the 54-hole lead because he's simply doing everything better than anyone else. A seven-time winner for the Cavaliers in college, Kohles is T2 in fairways hit, T4 in greens in regulation and T7 in putting.
"I've been hitting my driver really well and once you're in the fairway it's a lot easier than playing from the trees," he said.
Murphy, who needed to finish up seven holes in the morning to complete his weather-delayed second round, let a four-shot lead slip away with short-game mistakes.
"I drove it better today than I did when I shot 63 (first round). My chipping was probably the worst part of the round today and I didn't putt as well," he said. "If you aren't putting well out here you don't have a chance. Somebody's going to be putting well and hitting it well."
That somebody is Kohles, who will try to become the 13th player in Tour history to win in his very first start. The last to do it was Miguel Carballo at the 2007 Movistar Panama Championship.
• Saturday weather: partly cloudy skies, winds NW 10-15 mph with gusts, high of 80 degrees.
• Sunday's final round will be played in threesomes off the 1st and 10th tees. Times will run from 10:10 a.m. to noon with an expected finish time of 5:00 p.m. ET.
• Cliff Kresge's 7-under 64 was his lowest of the year. Kresge had made only 4 cuts in 14 starts prior to this week. His only top-25 finish this year was a T16 at the Stadion Classic at UGA. He began the week No. 126 on the money list. Kresge is a three-time winner on Tour -- 2002 Virginia Beach Open, 2002 Hershey Open, 2006 Oregon Classic. He played on the PGA TOUR in 2001, 2003-04 and 2007-10.
• Cliff Kresge's 7-under 64 was the best round of the day. Aaron Watkins' 65 was the second-best score on Saturday.
• Five of the collegians/former collegians made the 36-hole cut this week:
• Luke Guthrie turned professional earlier this year after the NCAA Championship. Guthrie won three times during the year and was a Second-Team All-American at Illinois, where he was also a two-time winner of the Big 10 Championship. Guthrie won the 2011 Robert Kepler Intercollegiate tournament on the Scarlet Course here at OSU.
Since turning pro Guthrie has made three PGA TOUR starts -- T19 FedEx St. Jude Classic, T5 John Deere Classic and T18 True South Classic -- and earned $284,672 in the process.
|Victorious in first Web.com Tour event (12):|
• Virginia's Ben Kohles is making his first start on the Web.com Tour. He is trying to become the 13th player in Tour history to win in his debut. Kohles turned professional earlier this week.
• Texan Jordan Speith finished double bogey/bogey to wind up with a 1-under 70 and a 5-under 208 total. Speith is one of two amateurs to make the cut and will try to add to the legacy of having at least one amateur finish in the top-10 in this event each year:
• Collegians/former collegians who have held/shared the lead in this event over the first six years:
• Second-round play was suspended at 7:36 p.m. Friday because of dangerous conditions. Play was called for the day at 7:47 p.m. A total of 51 players did not complete play. The second-round resumed with players in position at 7:30 a.m.
• Lift, clean and place conditions were in effect for round two.
• First-round leader Trevor Murphy came back to finish 7 holes Saturday morning, closing with a birdie for a 3-under 68 and a four-stroke lead over his nearest challengers. His four-stroke lead is the largest 36-hole lead in tournament history. The previous mark was 1 stroke, which happened three times in the previous five years.
• Leading money winner Paul Haley shot scores of 73-69 --142 and missed by one stroke.
• A total of 62 players (60 professionals & 2 amateurs) made the 36-hole cut, which came at 1-under par. This is the first time in the tournament's six-year history that the cut has been under par.
• There are 12 collegians/former collegians who earned exemptions into this week's event. Six of the dozen competed as amateurs this week and five made the 36-hole cut:
• Since the tournament began, 18 of 47 collegians/former collegians have made the 36-hole cut in this event (39%). There have been eight top-10 finishes in the first five years, with at least one top-10 finish each year. Daniel Summerhays (2007) and Harris English (2011) won the tournament while they were still amateurs. Rickie Fowler lost a playoff in 2009 to Derek Lamely while still an amateur and John Peterson was an amateur when he tied for second last year.
• Collegians/former collegians to make the 36-hole cut in this event: 2007 -- 2 of 6 2008 -- 6 of 7 2009 -- 4 of 8 2010 -- 3 of 12 2011 -- 3 of 12 2012 -- 5 of 12 • Scoring averages for the week:
• The Web.comTour will move to Omaha, NE for next week's Cox Classic presented by Lexus of Omaha at Champions Run (July 30 -- August 5).