Two late birdies boost Coles into one-shot lead

March 29, 2008
John Bush, PGA TOUR Staff

BROUSSARD, La. -- Gavin Coles birdied the final two holes on Saturday to pass Chris Riley and take over the top spot on the leaderboard through three rounds of the Nationwide Tour's Chitimacha Louisiana Open presented by Dynamic Industries.

Inside the Numbers
Coles thru 54 Holes
Category Total Rank
Eagles 0 N/A
Birdies 17 T1
Pars 31 T47
Bogeys 6 T40
Double Bogeys 0 N/A
Other 0 N/A
Driving Accuracy 66.7% T12
Driving Distance 271.3 yds. 61
Greens in Regulation 77.8% T3
Putts per Round 29.3 T27
Putts per GIR 1.667 4
Sand Saves 40.0% T34

Riley (70) entered the day with a three-stroke cushion -- equaling the largest in tournament history in Lafayette -- and appeared poised to hold that lead until Coles (66) birdied the final two holes to move into solo possession of the lead at 11-under-par 202. Riley will enter the final 18 holes one shot back, while B.J. Staten -- who fashioned the round of the day with an 8-under 63 -- will be two strokes behind.

"I played really nicely today apart from two holes," said Coles, speaking of his only bogeys at the ninth and 13th holes. "The great scores this morning set the precedent for what I had to do this afternoon."

Coles, a 39-year-old Australian, is no stranger to the top spot on the leaderboard in Nationwide Tour events, having won three times and most recently at the 2006 Legend Financial Group Classic. Sunday will mark just the second time he has held the lead going into the final round. The first led to a victory at the 2002 Jacob's Creek Open Championship.

"I'm just trying to stand on the 10th tee tomorrow with a chance to win the golf tournament," said Coles, who holds conditional status on the PGA TOUR after finishing No. 147 on the money list in 2007. "That is what we all play this game for ... to get in these situations and having the feeling of being in the hunt and having a chance to win the golf tournament."

Riley opened the week with rounds of 65-68 and then added a 1-under 70 on Saturday. His round was steady -- featuring just two birdies and one bogey -- but not spectacular enough to hold on to the lead for another day.

"I didn't make any putts today," said Riley, the winner of the 2002 Reno-Tahoe Open. "I'm actually pretty pleased with how I played. I haven't been in this position in awhile. Playing in the last group is a lot different than playing in the middle of the pack."

Coles and Riley will be paired with Staten in the final group on Sunday. Staten's 63 on Saturday represents the round of the week so far at the Nationwide Tour's first domestic tournament of the season, and it helped the 30-year-old native of Nashville, Tenn., jump all the way into solo possession of third place.

"It was a great day," said Staten, who hit all 18 greens in regulation. "It was hard to be aggressive yesterday. But we were extremely fortunate to come out this morning (before the delay) and fire at some pins."

Tom Byrum (65), Andrew Dresser (66), Vance Veazey (67) and Matthew Every (67) are just two shots back at 8-under-par 205.

Third-Round News & Notes: Play was suspended due to a dangerous situation at 11:50 p.m. and resumed at 1:30 p.m. Due to the threat of thunderstorms on Sunday afternoon, threesomes will tee off of split tees from 8:30-10:20 a.m. ... Chris Riley will be seeking to become just the second wire-to-wire winner of the Chitimacha Louisiana Open, joining 1997 winner Joe Daley. ... 2001 Chitimacha Louisiana Open winner Paul Claxton, the only past champion to make the cut this week, struggled to a 3-over 74 and is in a tie for 53rd place. ... The third-round leader at the Chitimacha Louisiana Open has gone on to win six times in 14 72-hole events in Lafayette, including most recently Skip Kendall in 2007. ... The third-round scoring average was 69.836, with the par-4 13th hole playing the most difficult at 4.393. The par-5 fifth hole played the easiest at 4.525. ... Sunday's winner will take home $94,500 out of the overall $525,000 purse.