Notebook: Spears, Gardiner, Peterson finish strong at Hotel FitnessJohn Peterson carded a final-round, 8-under 64 to move into a tie for fifth on Sunday.September 01, 2013
By Jeff Shain, PGATOUR.COM Correspondent; staff
FORT WAYNE, Ind. – Another day, another name to add to the course record at Sycamore Hills.
Ryan Spears became the third man to shoot 9-under 63 at the Hotel Fitness Championship, joining the ranks Sunday with a closing flurry of five birdies in his final seven holes.
“I’m pretty excited,” said Spears, who jumped 36 spots on the leaderboard to a tie for 11th. “That’s the most birdies  I’ve ever had in a round. To do it on Sunday in the (Web.com Tour Finals), against the highest level, there’s not anything better than that.”
Michael Putnam turned in the week’s first 63 on Friday, matched a day later by Kevin Kisner. Spears might have reset the standard, but his approach shot at the par-5 15th hole hit the flagstick and dribbled to the front of the green.
“It hits right on the top where the nylon part of the flag is,” Spears said, “and just comes back down almost off the front of the slope. I had about 18 feet (for birdie) and just didn’t hit it hard enough.”
Spears certainly wasn’t rattled by it. He birdied No. 16 from just off the green, stuck his approach at No. 17 a foot from the hole and closed out his day by chipping in for birdie.
“You couldn’t ask for anything more,” Spears said. “I got to 13 (under) and was thinking maybe I can get one more. Then I stone it in there (at No. 17) and, well, let’s get a little greedy. It was exciting.”
GARDINER's STEALTH MOVE
With so much attention focused on winner Trevor Immelman’s pursuit of third-round leader Patrick Cantlay, Scott Gardiner was scarcely noticed as he climbed up the leaderboard.
In the end, the Aussie’s closing 68 gave him four rounds in the 60s and a tie for third with Kisner.
“It’s always nice on Sunday to finish with a relatively low score,” said Gardiner, who finished 177th in the FedExCup points race despite making three cuts in his last four PGA TOUR starts.
Three birdies in Gardiner’s last seven holes locked in his strong finish.
“I was a bit anxious early on because I hadn’t been in contention a lot this year,” he said. “But I hit a lot of good shots down the stretch, and that’s going to give me a lot of confidence.”
WILD PITCH (MARK)
John Peterson, needing a birdie at No. 18 to add his name to the Sycamore Hills record, got an unpleasant surprise when he reached his drive in the fairway.
His ball had come to rest in someone else’s pitch mark.
“And it was pretty deep – about halfway down to the ground,” said the former NCAA champion. “That fairways been a little softer than the other ones, so I wasn’t surprised to see a pitch mark. I was just surprised to see (my ball) in it.”
Peterson dug it out the best he could, but it cost him about 10 yards of distance. His ball ran into a greenside bunker, where he came close to holing out before settling for a closing par and a share of fifth.
The former LSU standout said he’d move on without any sour taste.
“I’m happy with par, with the lie I had in the fairway,” he said. “That’s the way golf is -- you’re going to have some terrible breaks, some good ones, some bad bounces, some good ones. I had my good ones and my bad ones -- but that one was real bad, at a bad time.”
SHOOTING FOR PRIORITY
The first 25 card earners through the Regular Season (except leading money winner Michael Putnam, who is fully exempt) are playing in the Finals to improve their 2013-14 PGA TOUR eligibility positions, which are used to form tournament fields.
Fourteen of those first 25 made the cut this week. Seven of them finished T24 or better -- Kevin Kisner (13th/Regular Season), Putnam (1), Brendon Todd (20), Brice Garnett (14), Danny Lee (15), Peter Malnati (18) and Tim Wilkinson (10).
The 25 leading money winners in the four-event Web.com Tour Finals who have not already secured their cards will also be headed to the PGA TOUR in October.
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)
R4 – Russell Knox (68), Kelly Kraft (66) and D.J. Trahan (68)