Henley, Guthrie share 54-hole lead at Cox ClassicAugust 04, 2012
Joe Chemycz, Web.com Tour staff
OMAHA, Neb. -- Luke Guthrie cooled off, Russell Henley heated up and the field bunched up after three rounds of the Cox Classic presented by Lexus of Omaha.
Guthrie failed to repeat the magic that produced 22 birdies in his first 36 holes, settling for an even-par 71 that left him right where he started, 17-under par. He shares the 54-hole lead with Henley, who matched his career-best round with a 7-under 64, the same score he produced on day one.
Canada's Adam Hadwin produced the day's best round, an 8-under 63 which pushed him to 15-under and into a tie for third with Aaron Goldberg (66) and Ben Kohles (67), winner of last week's Nationwide Children's Hospital Invitational.
Four others are at 14-under and eight more another shot back at minus-13. There are 25 players within five of the lead.
"I had a number in my head and maybe I was trying to get to 23-under too quick," said Guthrie, a playoff runner-up last week to Kohles. "Maybe I got out of the process too quick. I was trying to make it tough for these guys to catch me and I made it easier for them."
Guthrie admitted things were out of sync from the start of the round -- which was delayed 2:15 because of fast-moving storms and high winds that produced very little rain on the parched grounds at Champions Run.
"All in all it was a struggle out there today -- putting, long game, everything," said Guthrie after hitting only eight fairways and 12 greens. "My tempo wasn't the greatest all day. I had a hard time putting the ball where I wanted to put it."
Guthrie's three-shot lead disappeared quickly on a windy Saturday because of his work on the greens. He saved par on the first hole from eight feet but that was about it for any superlatives.
"My speed was awful," he said. "I left some short and blew some others right past the hole. There weren't too many putts that were the right speed. I was really struggling with the speed."
His work at No. 18 illustrated that perfectly. The 22-year-old University of Illinois All-American was at 18-under and up by one. His birdie try from 12 feet slipped past the cup and then he missed his comeback try from three feet. Instead of possibly leading by two, he shares the lead.
"I'm happy with that," he said. "Once I get over that last bogey and put the round behind me I'll be ready. I've had a lot of good experiences this summer. I feel like I'm knocking on the door and I'm getting close."
Henley hasn't been close since he won last year's Stadion Classic at UGA shortly after finishing up his college career with the Bulldogs.
"It's been a tough year," said Henley, who was an amateur when he won in Athens last spring but hasn't been a serious contender in the interim. "It can be lonely out here when you're not playing your best. It's not as much fun when you're struggling with your game and you don't know why you're struggling."
Henley is still adjusting to his first year on Tour but seems to have found an inner peace of late that is producing better results.
"It's a constant work in progress and my game's starting to feel really good," he said. "I have a lot of people I talk to about golf and the whole idea is to have fun. I need to let it go and not be so hard on myself. I used to do that really well and I'm trying to get back to that."
Saturday was a good example as Henley charged through the pack. His day was highlighted by an eagle-2 at the par-4, 4th hole when he got a drop from the grandstands and his approach shot bounced of a greenside hill and eventually found the cup.
"I'm excited to get in the mix," he said. "Win or lose I'm just happy to be up there."
• The start of play Saturday morning was delayed 2:15 because of fast-moving thunderstorms and high winds. There was very little rainfall.
• Fourth-round play will be in threesomes off the 1st and 10th tees Sunday. Tee times will run from 7:45-9:45 a.m. with an expected finish time of 3 p.m. CT.
• Of the top 33 players on the leaderboard, only Peter Lonard posted an over-par score in the third round. Steve LeBrun and co-leader Luke Guthrie shot even-par 71s. The other 28 players were each under-par.
Year Player Lost/won Tournaments 1993 Tommy Moore Lost playoff to Sean Murphy at Utah Classic Won the following week at Boise Open (+1) 1997 Chris Smith Lost playoff to Ben Bates at Wichita Open Won the following week at Dakota Dunes Open (+2) 2005 Roger Tambellini Lost playoff to Jason Gore at Cox Classic Won the following week at Price Cutter Charity Champ. (+1) 2007 Ron Whittaker Lost playoff to Brad Adamonis at WNB Golf Classic Won the following week at Chattanooga Classic (+1) 2008 Matt Bettencourt Lost playoff to D.A. Points at Miccosukee Champ. Won the following week at Tour Championship (+1)
• Guthrie remains in position for his first Tour win after losing a playoff to Ben Kohles last week at the Nationwide Children's Hospital Invitational. Matt Bettencourt is the last player on Tour to lose a playoff one week and then come back the following week to win:
• Ben Kohles, winner of last week's Nationwide Children's Hospital Invitational, fired a 4-under 67 to get to 15-under par. He is tied for third heading into the final round. Kohles became the first player in Tour history to win his professional debut when he defeated Luke Guthrie in a playoff at the Ohio State University Scarlet Course last Sunday. Kohles is now in position to challenge for another victory. There have been 11 players in Tour history to post consecutive victories but only five to win in back-to-back weeks. The last player to win twice in two weeks was Jason Gore at the 2002 Oregon Classic and Albertsons Boise Open.
• Russell Henley matched his career-low score with a 7-under 64. Henley also fired a 64 in the opening round. The former Georgia All-American will head into the final round in second place, the second-highest he's ever been in a Web.com Tour event. Henley shared the 54-hole lead at last year's Stadion Classic at UGA, which he won as an amateur but hasn't been better than T9 after three rounds since.
• Henley's 196 total is a whopping eight strokes lower than his previous best 54-hole score. Henley was at 204 (-9) after three rounds of the 2011 Stadion Classic at UGA.
• There has never been a wire-to-wire winner in the 16-year history of the Cox Classic. The two players who have come the closest are Chris Smith and Jay Delsing. Smith shared the first-round lead in 1997 and held the lead after each of the next three days. Delsing shared the second-round lead in 2002 but was the outright leader in each of the other rounds. Luke Guthrie would join those two in the "almost" category should he go on to win Sunday.
• Tag Ridings was the last player in the field to make a bogey this week. Ridings played the opening 36 without a mistake and then started round three with seven consecutive pars before making a bogey at No. 8, ending his streak at 43 holes.
• Jeff Cuzzort, playing the first group off the back nine, registered the first ace of the week. Cuzzort used a 5-iron for a hole-in-one at the 229 yard 16th hole. It was the sixth ace of his career but his first in competition.
"I didn't see it go in," he said. "There were about 10 people up there who raised their arms and gave a pretty good cheer."
• The Tour record for most birdies over 72 holes is 31. Craig Lile set the mark in 2002 when he had 31 birdies but wound up 24-under par and two back of winner Bo Van Pelt. Steve Wheatcroft also had 31 birdies at last year's Melwood Prince George's County Open, where he blitzed the field by a Tour-record 12 strokes. Third-round leader Luke Guthrie has a total of 25 birdies and could challenge that mark in Sunday's finale.
• Third-round leaders/co-leaders have gone on to win six times in the 16-year history of the tournament. J.J. Killeen was the last one to do it, last year. Killeen was at 20-under after 54 holes in 2011 and finished at minus-22 to win by one stroke.
• The 315-yard, 9th hole has been the easiest par-4 on Tour for six consecutive years. Annually it plays to a scoring average around 3.5. There have been between 15-18 eagles made on the hole in each of the past six years. There were four eagles recorded on the hole in the first round and there were nine more in the second round but there were none during the third round.
Round Front 9 (35) Back 9 (36) Total (71) R1 33.897 35.032 68.929 R2 33.500 34.795 68.295 R3 34.558 35.000 69.558
• Course statistics this week: