Ventura holds 54-hole lead at Pinnacle Bank Championship
July 20, 2019
By Chris Cox , PGATOUR.COM
- July 20, 2019
- Oklahoma State alum Kristoffer Ventura could secure his first PGA TOUR card with a strong final round at The Club at Indian Creek. (Kevin Prise/PGA TOUR)
OMAHA, Neb. – It was pure happenstance that Kristoffer Ventura and Lanto Griffin sat next to each other earlier this week at a Korn Ferry Tour champions dinner.
It won’t be their last pairing of the week.
A 4-under 67 kept Ventura atop the leaderboard for the second straight day Saturday at the Pinnacle Bank Championship presented by Chevrolet, though Griffin trails by only a stroke after a third-round best 7-under 64.
The pair will play together Sunday for the first time in their careers, while Tyson Alexander will join them in a threesome with heavy rains expected in the forecast. The 31-year-old is four shots back at 11-under 202.
“I was so happy more than anything to sit across from guys who have won this year who are really good players,” Ventura said. “… That will be fun, for sure. From sitting next to each other to playing together.”
Ventura, who sits at 15-under 198 after 54 holes, built on his cushion early with three front-nine birdies. But strong afternoon wind gusts led to bogeys on Nos. 12 and 13, and Griffin took advantage with a stellar round that included three consecutive birdies and an eagle to start his day.
The pair were deadlocked at 13 under until Ventura regained the lead for good with birdies on Nos. 15 and 16.
“You’ve got to stay patient out here,” Ventura said. “Just knowing my ball-striking, short game and putting is good enough, if I get in trouble I’m not freaking out or anything. It’s been paying off. I told my agent and my parents that I’m going to do everything I can to prepare my best. If I do that, I’ll be happy no matter what happens.”
At No. 22 on the points list, Ventura can secure his PGA TOUR card with a second win of the year. Griffin, ranked No. 5, already has his locked up. But that will have little impact on the final 18 holes at The Club at Indian Creek, he said.
“It’s not like I’m going to be out there going, ‘Hey, I got my TOUR card, whatever happens, happens,’” Griffin said. “I want to win; I want to play well. That’s why I’m here. Tomorrow is going to be an interesting day. Kristoffer’s got a lot on the line, but hopefully I can go out there and be calm and see what happens.”
With sweltering heat this week in Omaha, Griffin got little practice in between tournament rounds prior to Saturday. But it didn’t seem to matter when he opened with a 5-foot birdie on No. 1 and followed with 15- and 20-foot birdie putts on the ensuring two holes. He then stuck his approach shot inside 5 feet at the par-5 fourth. He added two more birdies after the making the turn in what was a bogey-free round.
“You’ve got to have streaks like that to win golf tournaments and be in contention,” he said. “It was nice to get off to a good start. I was proud of myself for staying in the moment and not really overthinking it.”
Ventura understands what is at stake for him over the final 18 holes. And in the past, it might have gotten the best of him.
Perhaps sage advice over dinner with fellow champions helped with that.
“That’s what everyone talks about. That’s all I hear. ‘You’re projected this, if you win you’ll be there,’” he said. “At this point, I just play golf. I told my caddie to take it one shot at a time. It’s a huge cliché, but it’s hard to stay away. You see it on Twitter and Instagram.
“At this point I’m just going to keep doing what I’m doing and see where that ends up. In the past, I would have been really focused on it looking at leaderboards. Now I’m just focusing on my own thing.”