Wright cards 62 to take 54-hole lead at Panama Championship
February 01, 2020
By Sean Wildhack, PGATOUR.COM
- February 01, 2020
- Chase Wright recorded an 8-under 62 to lead the Panama Championship. (PGA TOUR)
PANAMÁ CITY, Panamá - Chase Wright erupted on Saturday at the Panamá Championship carding an 8-under 62 to claim the 54-hole lead at 10-under 200. Davis Riley and Grant Hirschman sit T2 at 9-under 201.
Wright, who played in the first group off No.1 Saturday morning, found his rhythm early converting birdies on three of his first four holes. After a par on No. 5, the Indiana University product kept his foot on the pedal adding birdies on Nos. 6, 8 and 9 to post a 6-under 29 on his front nine.
After birdies on Nos. 10 and 13, Wright reached 8-under for the round and 10-under for the tournament. The 30-year-old stumbled with a bogey at the par-4 14th but rebounded immediately with a birdie at No. 15. He closed with pars on the final three holes to claim a one-stroke lead heading into Sunday’s final round.
“I’ve been striking the ball so well,” Wright said. “Even the misses have been in the center of the clubface. I’ve been hitting the right distances and have been lag putting well. It was just kind of steady and the ball kept going in the hole.”
Wright found himself T36 at the start of the third round. He opened the week with rounds of 71-67 but something seemed to click for the 30-year-old on Saturday.
“I was just free, it’s hard to explain,” he said. “There wasn’t a whole lot of tension or hanging on. It was just picking your spot and going. You hit quality iron shots and the ball doesn’t curve as much. It’s kind of like what they call ‘being in the zone.’ It’s a pretty good feeling.”
Wright is making his 100th start on the Korn Ferry Tour this week. He last played a full season on the Korn Ferry Tour in 2018. That year, he earned a victory at the Rust-Oleum Championship and finished ninth in The 25 securing him a PGA TOUR card.
“Obviously, I should have a lot of confidence going into tomorrow,” he said. “I’ve been in this position a few times and I’ve gotten it done before, so I’ll give it my best.”
Davis Riley and Grant Hirschman sit T2 at 9-under 201. After a slow start on the front nine, Riley caught fire with birdies on Nos. 10, 12, 13 and 14 to reach 7-under for the week. The University of Alabama product carded birdies on Nos. 16 and 17 en route to a 6-under 29 on the back nine during Saturday’s third round.
“I hit a bunch of good shots on the front but just couldn’t really make any putts,” Riley said. “I might’ve been forcing things a bit early and then I just started playing good golf. I just stayed patient and it came together on the back nine.”
In 2019, Riley entered the Korn Ferry Tour season with no status. Despite not recording a top-10 last year, he missed just five cuts throughout the season. He went on to record five top-25s in 18 starts and finished 70th on the Regular Season points list. His outstanding play led to full status for the 2020 Korn Ferry Tour season.
“Last year, I was playing tournament-by-tournament,” Riley said. “This year, having a full schedule, I can just go play golf and have another week to play. It’s nice to have a much more relaxed kind of feel and to just go play instead of trying to live by top-25s.”
Like Riley, Hirschman also experienced a slow start on Saturday. He carded a 1-over 36 on his front nine that featured eight pars and one bogey. After a bogey on the par-4 11th, the 24-year-old finally settled in. Hirschman nearly holed his tee shot on the par-3 13th and tapped in for his first birdie of the day. He then went on to birdie four of his final five holes to reach 9-under for the week.
“I just had a slow start. I was hitting the ball really good and just got some bad breaks,” Hirschman said. “I hit a close shot in there on No. 13 and tapped in for birdie. After that, I just flipped the switch and was able to birdie five of the last six.”
Last season, Hirschman made 13 cuts in 18 starts on the Korn Ferry Tour and recorded two top-10s. The University of Oklahoma product held the 54-hole lead at the Price Cutter Charity Championship presented by Dr Pepper and eventually finished T4.
Despite not earning the victory, the 24-year-old knows he can draw on his experience from a year ago during tomorrow’s final round.
“It’s definitely going to help,” Hirschman said of his 2019 season. “Last year, I think I had the lead in Springfield (Missouri) heading into the final round. I definitely learned a lot there and I’m looking forward to carrying those experiences into tomorrow.”
Final-round tee times will run from approximately 6:50 a.m. – 11:40 a.m. with players teeing off No. 1.