Martin Flores leads by three heading into final round

COLUMBUS, OH - SEPTEMBER 24: Martin Flores reads a putt on the first green during the third round of the Tour Nationwide Children's Hospital Championship at The Ohio State University Golf Club on September 24, 2016 in Columbus, Ohio. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)














Third-Round Leaderboard

Pos. Name Scores
1 Martin Flores 68-66-66—200 (-13)
2 Tag Ridings 69-65-69—203 (-10)
3 Grayson Murray 69-67-68—204 (-9)


COLUMBUS, Ohio – Martin Flores fired a 5-under 66 Saturday to take the 54-hole lead at the Nationwide Children’s Hospital Championship, the third of four Tour Finals events.

Flores sits at 13-under-par 200 heading into the final round, three better than Tag Ridings (69).

Grayson Murray (68) is four shots back while Carlos Ortiz (66) and Cameron Smith (67) find themselves five back after the third round.

“I’m not going to change anything,” said Flores, when asked about playing with the lead. “I respect every individual out here, and I know that anybody can put together a hot round, so I’ve got to keep doing what I’m doing. I know the golf course is very, very difficult and it’s going to be a challenge.”

Flores got off to a shaky start with a bogey at the first. It took a while for the Lincoln Land Charity Championship winner to get comfortable on the putting surfaces. Even with birdies at holes four and seven, Flores struggled with his speed early in his round.

“I struggled early with lag putting,” said Flores, who had 29 putts on Saturday. “I was leaving everything short. Just struggled with the speed. Then as the round went on I started to hit the ball close quite a few times, but I started getting the speed a lot better. So I was very happy with that.”

The Ohio State University Golf Club’s demanding Scarlet Course has tested the patience of the players all week. It has consistently been in the top five toughest courses on Tour year-in and year-out during the tournament’s 10-year history. Mistakes are going to happen around the Alistair MacKenzie layout and Flores made a few of his own Saturday afternoon.

After a bogey on the par-4 11th hole, the Dallas, Texas native rattled off four consecutive birdies to take a commanding lead of the tournament.  Following pars at No. 16 and 17, Flores stuffed a wedge from 88 yards to five feet on the home hole and made birdie to cap off his second consecutive 66.

“I stayed to my approach and I just kept going along and I think birdies just happen,” said Flores, who takes the outright lead into the final round of a Tour event for the first time in his career. “You have to let them happen. It’s very, very hard to force birdies. Especially out here. So if you try to make birdies, if you’re trying to force things, I think that typically backfires.”

Flores has been noticeably different since his win in Springfield, Illinois earlier this summer. The 33-year-old former University of Oklahoma standout has played with tremendous confidence since securing his PGA TOUR card with his maiden Tour victory.

“I want it really bad,” said Flores, when asked about the stoic look on his face. “I’m sure just like anybody else. I’m really focused on my approach and what I’m doing out there.”



Entering the week Flores trailed leading money winner Wesley Bryan by a little more than $161,000. With every Finals event carrying a one million-dollar purse, the first-place prize in Columbus is worth $180,000. If Flores can hang on and win on Sunday, he will be in pole position to win the season-long money title.

“I want to pass Wes Bryan, just like I’m sure everybody else does,” said Flores. “Wes has had a fantastic year winning three times, but, yeah, I want that spot and I’m going to go out tomorrow and do my best. Tomorrow’s going to be a challenging day, and we’ll see what I can do.”

Win or lose Sunday, Flores won’t have trouble keeping things in perspective thanks to a ball marker he uses every round that was given to him a few years ago. It’s not a true coin, but the head of a necklace, the size of a quarter, that serves as a reminder of what means the most to him.

“Yes, my grandfather passed away, I believe it’s been two and a half, almost three years,” said Flores, when asked about the sentimental trinket. “Before he died, I believe my grandfather gave it to my father or gave it to him at a young age, I’m not sure. But he gave it to me at Colonial I think three years ago and I’ve used it ever since. So, I miss him all the time and it’s kind of a reminder of what’s truly important and it keeps a fresh perspective.”

With a TOUR card on the line this week, Ridings has performed well under pressure. The 42-year-old Keller, Texas native has found his game during the Finals and is one round away from earning his TOUR card after a third-round 69.

“It feels great always,” said Ridings, who has posted three straight rounds in the 60s at the Scarlet Course for the first time in his career. “It feels really good on this golf course to actually beat it three days in a row. So I’m going to try to just stay focused on doing that. You’ve got to beat it off the tee and then you can play in from there.”

Saturday Notes:

* Saturday weather: Mostly cloudy. High: 79, Low: 68, Winds: NE 7-14 mph.

* This week’s purse is $1,000,000, with $180,000 going to the champion.

* This is the third event in the Tour Finals, a series of four events that will conclude at the Tour Championship in Atlantic Beach, Fla., Oct. 6-9. Twenty-five PGA TOUR cards were awarded four weeks ago following the WinCo Foods Portland Open. An additional 25 cards are up for grabs during the four Finals events, as well as positioning for all 50 cards.

* This is the fourth year of the Finals format and it’s difficult to gauge exactly how much money it will take to finish in the top-25 on the Finals money list and collect one of the remaining 25 PGA TOUR cards that will be handed out in a few weeks. Here’s how much money the No. 25 man on the money list earned in each of the past three years:

2013    No. 25              Bobby Gates                 $33,650.00
2014    No. 25              Eric Axley                    $36,311.66
2015    No. 25              Rob Oppenheim           $32,206.00

* With two of the four Finals events completed, it’s still difficult to gauge exactly how much money it will take to secure a top-25 spot on the money list, but here is a list of the players entering the week on the Finals Bubble for the 25 cards (excluding The 25) and how they have fared so far this week:

No. 23: Erik Barnes                  $18,075             MC

No. 24: Stuart Appleby             $17,010             T52

No. 25: Xander Schauffele        $15,395             T9

No. 26: John Peterson               $14,500             N/A

No. 26: John Mallinger             $14,500             MC

No. 26: Scott Harrington           $14,500             MC

* Martin Flores has led/co-led after 54 holes only two times in his career on the Tour. Flores previously held the co-lead at the 2011 Rex Hospital Open, where he finished T2. In his lone Tour victory, Flores was in solo second entering the final round. Flores is making his third appearance in the Nationwide Children’s Hospital Championship. He’s finished in the top-20 both times with a T19 in 2011 and T20 in 2015.

* Flores’ three-shot lead through 54 holes ties Seung Yul-Noh for the largest 54-hole lead in this tournament’s history, which Noh went on to close out with a five-shot victory.

* In the previous nine years of this championship, the 54-hole leader has gone on to win five times with the last being Justin Thomas in 2014. The largest come-from-behind victory at this championship was Derek Lamely in 2009, who shot a final-round 65 to come from eight back and beat Rickie Fowler, who was an amateur at the time, in a playoff.

* There have been three playoffs in this championship’s history.

* In the final round at the DAP Championship, Tag Ridings seemingly found something with a 3-under 67 – his best round in two months on the Tour. Ridings has now posted eight consecutive under-par rounds after getting the streak started on that Sunday in Cleveland.

* Cameron Smith earned Special Temporary Membership on the PGA TOUR in June of 2015 after a fifth-place finish at the CIMB Classic and a T4 at the 2015 U.S. Open. Smith went on to earn TOUR membership for the 2016-17 season via non-member FedExCup points, but the 22-year-old struggled in his first full season on TOUR with only three top-25 finishes in 24 starts. Smith’s best finish of the season came in February with a T11 at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am. As a result, the Aussie finished 157th in the FedExCup standings and is at the Tour Finals in search of a return to the TOUR. In his first Tour start, Smith finished T28 at the DAP Championship before missing the cut at the Albertsons Boise Open. After a 4-under 67 in the third round in Columbus, Smith could be heading for a return to the TOUR as the Brisbane, Australia native enters the final round in T4 at 8-under 205, five shots back of the lead.

* Three-time Tour winner Carlos Ortiz fired the round of the day Saturday – a 5-under 66 – to climb up 16 spots on the leaderboard into T4 at 8-under 205.

* Ryan Blaum ($36,500), D.A. Points ($35,075), Rod Pampling ($33,032), and Will Mackenzie ($32,375) were all on the verge of locking up their PGA TOUR card for the 2016-17 season entering this week based off of the number that it took in previous years to secure one of 25 TOUR cards given out during the Tour Finals, and each could lock it up tomorrow with a solid finish. Blaum (T28), Points (T42), Pampling (T28), and Mackenzie (T19) are all assured to add to their totals this week and could lock up their card with a good final round.

* With a stroke average of 72.773 (+1.773) in 2015, the Scarlet Course played as the third toughest track on Tour last season. Through three rounds this year, the Scarlet Course is playing slightly easier with a stroke average of 71.195.



Scoring Average for the Scarlet Course for the week:
Front (36)         Back (35)         Total (71)         Cumulative
R1:       35.819             34.976             70.795             —-
R2:       36.120             35.096             71.216             70.998
R3:       36.500             35.091             71.591             71.195

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