Final group shoots 11-under, Knost leads by one
Sam Saunders and Greg Owen are one back of Colt Knost's lead after Round 3
August 30, 2014
By Kevin Prise, PGATOUR.COM
- Colt Knost has made 13 birdies, two eagles and a double bogey this week at the Hotel Fitness Championship. (Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
Sometimes on Saturdays during professional golf tournaments, members of the final group tend to struggle, for whatever reason. Conditions toughen up, pressure mounts and players at the top of the leaderboard begin to fade to the middle of the pack.
That wasn’t the case at the Hotel Fitness Championship, the first leg of the Web.com Tour Finals. The final group of Colt Knost, Sam Saunders and Greg Owen combined to shoot 11-under at Sycamore Hills GC in Fort Wayne, Indiana.
Consequently, all three earned late-afternoon tee times for the final round. Knost leads at 15 under, with Saunders and Owen tied for second place, one shot behind.
The field will play in twosomes on Sunday afternoon (after playing threesomes on Saturday morning), and the final group of Knost and Saunders will get under way at 2:50 p.m.
The leaders enjoyed their round on Saturday despite the amount at stake, and they intend on maintaining the same attitude during the final round, where the winner will be assured of PGA TOUR status for 2014-15.
“I don’t know how many bogeys were made in our group, but I don’t feel like it was very many,” said Knost (Saunders made two; Owen made one). “It was a good time out there; we were all talking and having a good time. We all know how big the moment is; all three of us are trying to get to the PGA TOUR, but you can’t put any extra pressure on yourself. There’s so much already.”
“It was very relaxed out there,” Owen added. “A lot of fun. Hopefully we’ll have the same amount of fun tomorrow.”
CAULEY CHECKS IN AGAIN: Bud Cauley got off to a bumpy start on the PGA TOUR in 2013-14, but he felt his game rounding into form as the summer moved along. After missing five consecutive cuts early in the season, he rebounded to record three top-11 finishes, highlighted by a T4 at The Greenbrier Classic in July.
Midway through the John Deere Classic, Cauley suffered a shoulder injury, and a final-round 74 dropped him from inside the top 20 to T52. The former Alabama player was sidelined for more than a month, and he fell to No. 143 in the FedExCup Standings, necessitating a return to the Web.com Tour Finals.
Cauley finished T5 at last year’s Hotel Fitness Championship, and he’s in line for a similar finish through three rounds this week at Sycamore Hills GC. He shot a 5-under 67 on Saturday to move from T10 to T4, and he stands just two behind leader Colt Knost headed into Sunday.
“I’ve played well out there on TOUR,” Cauley said. “Not as well or consistent as I would have liked, but I felt like I was fixing some of the things I was doing wrong. Just a bad break, what happened this year at the John Deere.”
Cauley said he feels like his swing has improved every day this week, and he hopes to maintain the progression on Sunday.
Cauley’s response when asked if he feels like he’s a TOUR player: “Of course.”
In the final round, he can go a long way toward proving so.
“I’m just trying to play well in these events and get back out there next year,” Cauley said.
QUOTE OF THE DAYAs soon as you guys leave me alone, I’m going to go watch it.
–former University of Alabama golfer Bud Cauley, joking with reporters after completing his third round just before kickoff of the Alabama football team’s season opener against West Virginia
FINDING A RHYTHM: Dicky Pride missed eight of his first nine cuts on TOUR in 2014, but he got himself back on track later in the season, qualifying for the Web.com Tour Finals with the help of a T7 finish at the RBC Canadian Open in late July.
The Alabama grad started off strong at the Hotel Fitness Championship with rounds of 66 and 69, but he struggled to find a rhythm during Saturday’s third round. Mistakes off the tee forced him to lay up on two par-4 holes (Nos. 8 and 16), and he only hit 10 of 18 greens in regulation.
But Pride made a few key up-and-downs, and he scraped together a 1-under 7 that featured pars on his final 10 holes. Pride’s 10-under total leaves him T8 entering the final round, and he’s encouraged by the knowledge that he maintained his composure throughout the course of Saturday’s round.
“I laid up a couple times on par 4s, par 5s, par 3s, whatever,” Pride joked after his round. “It was just one of those days where I didn’t hit the ball well. I hit the ball particularly bad today, but I hung in there. I got it to one under, which was nice, but I’ve got to do better tomorrow.”
HOT START: Tag Ridings knows a thing or two about putting together a hot round on Sunday. The Arkansas grad gained notoriety on TOUR in 2004 when he shot a final-round 61 to finish T2 at the Michelin Championship at Las Vegas, and followed suit three weeks later with a Sunday 64 at the Chrysler Championship to place T11.
Ridings got off to a hot start in the third round at the Hotel Fitness Championship, racing up the leaderboard with five birdies in his first 10 holes. The 39-year-old cooled off down the stretch but managed to post four-under 68, and he’s tied for eighth entering the final round at 10-under, five shots back of the lead.
If Ridings can channel his inner 2004 this week, good things will happen.
“I’m going to throw it out there and give it a shot,” Ridings said. “I’m looking forward to that. I’ve let a couple shots go in each round, silly stuff, but it happens. Maybe in the fourth round, I won’t do that and I’ll finish it off strong.”
HOME GAME: Chase Wright considers the Hotel Fitness Championship a home game. Wright grew up in Muncie, Indiana, less than 80 miles from Fort Wayne, and dozens of family and friends have cheered him on throughout the week at Sycamore Hills GC.
Wright puts pressure on himself to do well when he’s playing near home, and the Indiana University grad handled the pressure well on Saturday. He started strong with an eagle on the par-5 second hole, and his four-under 68 moved him from T24 to T12 entering the final round.
Wright played with John Peterson and Scott Gardiner in the third round, and the three combined to shoot 16 under. Peterson shot an eight-under 64 to move into the top five, and Gardiner rebounded from a triple bogey on the par-5 fifth with seven birdies in an eight-hole stretch.
With family and friends watching, and birdies and eagles being made, Wright had an enjoyable Saturday on the golf course – even while feeling the pressure to impress.
“I’ve been getting a lot of support out there,” Wright said. “It’s a good thing, but then again I feel like you feel twice as nervous when it’s people that you know. I don’t mind people watching me, but when 50 of the 60 people watching are people you grew up with or your family, it’s kind of added pressure that you don’t need.”
LOVEMARK LOOKS FOR A SPARK: Playing in the first group off No. 1 tee on Saturday, Jamie Lovemark figured he might be able to catch a break and play a few holes before the wind started to pick up.
That proved not to be the case – the wind started blowing early at Sycamore Hills – but Lovemark handled the conditions well, shooting six-under 66 to move into a tie for eighth entering the final round.
Lovemark credited his round to strong play with his irons, saying he didn’t do anything flashy but that he hit a lot of good, consistent shots. The California native birdied four of his first six holes and then played solidly to the house.
Five back entering the final round, Lovemark said he’s optimistic about his chances to go low on Sunday and make a run at the title.
“Of course I am [optimistic],” Lovemark said. “I’m hitting my irons nice, wedging it pretty well and making a few putts here and there. My new Nike irons are awesome, and I’m hitting the ball well.”
UNLUCKY AT UNLV: Former UNLV players Bill Lunde and Andres Gonzales played together on Saturday at the Hotel Fitness Championship, after the UNLV football team struggled in a 58-13 loss to Arizona on Friday night.
UNLV’s struggles extended to the golf course. Both entered the third round tied for 11th, but Gonzales shot even-par 72 to fall back to T21, while Lunde posted a three-over 75 and dropped to T40.
Lunde’s misfortunate was apparent on the par-4 18th hole, when he made a triple-bogey 7. After driving his tee shot into the left rough near the water hazard, Lunde caught his second shot fat and it landed in the hazard well short of the green.
After taking a drop, Lunde shanked his fourth shot well right of the green, and he did well to make 7 from there.
Despite all that, there is reason for optimism, as both Lunde and Gonzales finished in the top 25 on the Web.com Tour Regular Season money list and will play on TOUR in 2014-15.
STAT OF THE DAY
The most severe swing between second- and third-round scores went to Justin Thomas, who followed a seven-under 65 on Friday with a four-over 76 on Saturday.
Thomas entered the third round T2, and he birdied Nos. 2 and 3 before making three bogeys and a double bogey in his next four holes. He eagled the par-5 12th, but then made consecutive bogeys on holes 15-17.
The 11-shot swing draws comparison to Thomas’ performance in the 2010 Junior PGA Championship, when he went 65-75-81 en route to a T24 finish. Thomas currently stands T26 at the Hotel Fitness Championship.
(All photos are courtesy of Getty Images)