Hearn maintains lead at South Georgia Classic

Chris Condon/PGA TOUR
Will David Hearn become the first wire-to-wire winner since 2008?
April 24, 2010
PGA TOUR staff

VALDOSTA, Ga. -- David Hearn is getting used to being in the lead. The 30-year-old Canadian battled his way to a 1-over 73 Saturday but managed to hang on to the top spot after three rounds of the South Georgia Classic. Hearn's 10-under 206 total tied the tournament record and left him in sole possession of the 54-hole lead for the second week in a row.


"It's been a while but I'm starting to like it," said Hearn, who held the first- and second-round lead and is trying to become the Nationwide Tour's first wire-to-wire winner in two years.

The University of Wyoming grad has seen his lead shrink from three after an opening-day 64, to two at the halfway point and now down to one heading into Sunday's finale.

Second-year pro Jhonattan Vegas of Venezuela and the University of Texas and Australia's Ewan Porter both posted 3-under 69s to share second place, one behind.

"A one-shot lead is better than a no-shot lead," said Hearn, who held the second- and third-round leads at last week's Fresh Express Classic in California before finishing runner-up by one to Kevin Chappell. "I'm not worried about it. I'd rather be in the lead than off the lead. I'll see what I learned in terms of what happens tomorrow (Sunday),"

What happened Saturday was the wind blew, a storm halted play for 2 ½ hours and one of the Tour's longest and toughest golf courses fought back.

Wind gusts at 20 mph dried out the 7,781-yard layout and resulted in only eight players (out of 72) breaking par-72. The scoring average was nearly 2 ½ strokes above par at 74.444.

"I was doing great with it (wind) early," said Hearn, who birdied three of his first seven holes to reach 14-under par. "One of the things I notice is that your swing gets a little too fast in the wind and I think I did a pretty good job the majority of the day. With the speed of the greens and the wind blowing, it was hard."

Just when Hearn looked like he might distance himself from the field, a few sloppy shots and a temporary loss of focus resulted in four bogeys in a five-hole stretch.

"You know everyone is going to go through a tough spell in any golf tournament," he said. "That just happened to be mine today."

After a bogey at No. 12 dropped him to 10-under, Hearn was joined in first place by the young Vegas, who had just overpowered the 601-yard, par-5, 11th hole with a 7-iron and an 8-foot eagle putt for a share of the lead. He would eventually chalk up one bogey on his way in and settle for a share of second place.

Porter, meantime, exceeded his own expectations with five birdies in his first six holes to narrow a five-shot gap on Hearn down to two as he made the turn. Then disaster struck at the 490-yard, 12th hole where he made a triple-bogey 7.

"That hole has given me absolute nightmares the last two years," said Porter, who is a collective 11-over par in nine rounds on that hole the past three years. "I have a mental block on that hole, I'll admit it. It's definitely a mental thing that I'll have to overcome."

Porter admitted he tried to do much after his second shot trickled over the back edge. His "Phil Mickelson flop shot" went back across the green and into a hazard. A penalty stroke, a poor chip and two putts later saw him drop from 11-under to 8-under.

"My heart rate went from about 120 to 220 after that hole," he said. "I was pretty upset and being a pretty emotional player, that was a really good check-up for me to hang in there the last few holes. I'm proud of myself for hanging in there because there would have been a thousand rounds in the last few years that I would have let that round get totally away from me."

Hearn almost got away but allowed the challengers to stay within range with his up-and-down day.

"To be honest, I'm glad we're in the house," he said after closing out his round with a bogey, putting out just before sunset. "Maybe the shots are starting to blend together too much.

Third-Round Notes:

• The third round began on time (7:20 a.m.) but play was suspended at 9:00 due to rain and threatening conditions. Light rain fell and play resumed at 11:30 a.m.

• Saturday's suspension was the third time in seven events that play has been halted during the 2010 season. Play was suspended briefly (3:20-3:30 p.m.) in the third round at the Panama CLARO Championship because of a brief, heavy rain. The beginning of the opening round at the Chitimacha Louisiana Open was delayed 1:10 due to morning thunderstorms.

• Due to forecasted inclement weather overnight and Sunday, fourth round pairings will be in threesomes. Tee times are scheduled to run from 8:00-10:00 a.m. with groups going off the 1st and 10th tees. The leaders will be the final groups off the 1st tee.

David Hearn has held the outright lead after each of the first three rounds. He will attempt to become the first wire-to-wire winner on the Nationwide Tour since Colt Knost turned the trick at the 2008 Price Cutter Charity Championship. There have been seven wire-to-wire winners on Tour this decade.

Year Tournament After Round 3 Final round Final result
2004 Alberta Classic led by 3 shot 71 won by 1
2010 Fresh Express Classic led by 1 shot 67 finished second by 1 to Kevin Chappell
2010 South Georgia Classic leads by 1 ??? ???

• This is the third time that David Hearn has held the lead after 54 holes in a Nationwide Tour event. Hearn held a 3-shot lead at the 2004 Alberta Classic, his 7th career start on Tour. He then went 111 starts before he led after the third round again -- last week's Fresh Express Classic. Now he leads again.

David Hearn has now held the outright lead after 54 holes in consecutive weeks. The last time a player held/shared the 54-hole lead in back-to-back events came at the end of the 2008 season when Matt Bettencourt shared the lead at the Miccosukee Championship (with D.A. Points) and the Nationwide Tour Championship (with Bryce Molder). The last time a player held the outright 54-hole lead in back-to-back weeks came late in the 2002 season when Jason Gore led by two strokes at the Oregon Classic (won by 3) and then led by three the following week at the Albertsons Boise Open (won by 2).

Jason Kokrak is making his second career start on the Nationwide Tour. The former Xavier University star finished T44 at the 2007 Legends Financial Group Classic, where he played as an amateur. Kokrak's only PGA TOUR start was a missed cut at the 2007 U.S. Open at Oakmont, where he posted scores of 76-80.

• Fifteen of the top 25 money winners made the cut this week, led by No. 1 Bobby Gates. Kevin Chappell, Jim Herman and Fabian Gomez, Nos. 2-3-4 all missed the 36-hole cut.

• Only 8 of 72 players in the field posted sub-par rounds today.

Craig Barlow shot a 3-under 69 and vaulted from T60 to T13. Gary Christian shot a 3-under 69 and moved from T45 to T11.

• Best rounds of the day -- 69: Craig Barlow, Gary Christian, Ewan Porter, Jhonattan Vegas

• Today's scoring average was 74.444.