Ohio native Ryan Armour cards 65 to take 54-hole lead

Third-Round Leaderboard

Pos. Name Score
1 Ryan Armour 68-68-65—201 (-12)
2 Keith Mitchell 65-67-70—202 (-11)
3 Tom Lovelady 72-67-64—203 (-10)
4 Four players tied at 203 (-8)

 

 

Columbus, Ohio – Akron native Ryan Armour turned in his best performance of the week on Saturday in cold, wet conditions at The Ohio State Golf Club’s Scarlet Course to take the third-round lead at the Nationwide Children’s Hospital Championship. The 41-year-old Ohio State University alum recorded seven birdies and a bogey to jump in front of 36-hole leader Keith Mitchell. Armour’s 12-under-par 201 total places him one in front of Mitchell and two ahead of Tom Lovelady entering the final round.

 

The trio will try to secure their PGA TOUR cards for 2017-18 as the first event in the Web.com Tour Finals concludes on Sunday.

 

“My caddie and I talked on the range about how with the rain you had to be aggressive and you could start flying at some things that you normally couldn’t,” said Armour, who went out in 31. “On the front nine I struck the ball really well and turned at 5-under, but could have been better. And then the back nine kind of hung on at the end there. But it beats you up. I’m tired and cold.”

 

Armour, who now lives in sunny south Florida, spent five years in Columbus and has logged many hours on the Alistair Mackenzie layout. The Scarlet Course was redesigned by Jack Nicklaus in 2005, but Armour still feels nostalgic every time he returns.

 

“You see familiar faces,” he said, when asked about playing in front of friends and family. “Mark Lucas, Brian Kelly and everyone here do such a good job the way they treat us and it’s good to finally put some good rounds together.”

 

This week marks Armour’s seventh time competing in the Nationwide Children’s Hospital Championship. Before Thursday, Armour had recorded just three rounds under par and never back-to-back. After posting 65 on Saturday afternoon, he has now turned in three straight scores in the 60’s.

 

This season, Armour competed on TOUR and had his back against the wall at the Wyndham Championship. With his TOUR card on the line, Armour responded by recording his best showing on TOUR in a decade. The father-of-two needed to win or finish second in Greensboro and posted a final-round 64. The tie for fourth wasn’t enough to put him in the FedExCup Playoffs, but he’s brought that form to the Finals and has a chance to secure his return to the TOUR with a win on Sunday. 

 

“I think in every sport when you play at home, you want to please the home fans,” said Armour, who is in search of his second Tour victory. “It’s learning how to accept it, and some weeks I haven’t accepted it and this week I seem to accept it. Form counts, too. I came in here playing well, so that really helps a lot.”

 

For the second straight week, Mitchell, 25, will play in the final group on Sunday of a Tour event. Mitchell is not shy about being in contention. In his last three starts, Mitchell has posted a T11 at the Ellie Mae Classic at TPC Stonebrae, a T3 at the News Sentinel Open presented by Pilot and a T6 at the WinCo Foods Portland Open presented by Kraft Heinz.

 

The former University of Georgia standout is known as an elite ball-striker but the flat stick was letting him down. After a tough stretch in the season where he missed three cuts in five weeks, Mitchell turned his attention to correcting the problem.

 

Thanks to the advice of a good friend, who has won twice this season on Tour, Mitchell’s focus on his practice routine has paid dividends the latter part of the summer.

 

“I’ve worked on my putting a lot the last couple of weeks,” said Mitchell. “I remember rooming with Stephan Jaeger in California, and he made me just do some putting drills. He says, you got to do this, do this, you need to work on it. I’m starting to make a lot more putts and still have room to make a lot more. So if we can just stick to that routine, I think it’s really showing, but it could show even more.”

 

Lovelady, like Mitchell, is trying to get on TOUR for the first time in his professional golf career. The 24-year-old from Mountain Brook, Ala. birdied five of the last seven holes to move into solo third. The 64 on Saturday matched his lowest third-round score of the season.

 

“Early on I kind of made a couple silly bogeys, but that’s just going to happen,” said Lovelady, who turned in 34. “I just kind of kept my foot on the gas and just kept giving myself putts and hitting a bunch of good shots.”

 

Lovelady, who lives in Jupiter has two roommates who have won Finals’ events in the past. Bud Cauley won the Hotel Fitness Championship in 2014, while Justin Thomas won the Nationwide Children’s Hospital Championship that same year. Lovelady didn’t ask either for advice on how to tackle the four-event series or the Scarlet Course and believes that’s played a part in his success this week.
“He told me to call him if I had any questions about the course,” said Lovelady, when asked whether he talked to Thomas before Thursday. “I kind of forgot to do that, so I’ve just been kind of all on my own and just having a lot of fun with it.”
Saturday Notes:

* Saturday weather: Rainy. High of 66. Wind SE 5-10 mph. High of 66.

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

* This is the first tournament in the Web.com Tour Finals, a series of four events that will conclude at the Web.com Tour Championship in Atlantic Beach, Fla., Sept. 25-Oct. 1. Twenty-five PGA TOUR cards were awarded last week following the WinCo Foods Portland Open presented by Kraft Heinz. An additional 25 cards are up for grabs during the four Finals events, as well as positioning for all 50 cards.

* Armour holds the lead or co-lead on the Web.com Tour for only the third time in his career and first time since 2011. The 2016 Panama Claro Championship winner finished T5 and T17 each of the two prior times he held a share of the 54-hole lead — 2011 Rex Hospital Open (T5) and 2006 Cox Classic (T17). He did hold a share of the 36-hole lead on the PGA TOUR two weeks ago at the Wyndham Championship on his way to a T4 finish with rounds of 72-64. This is the first time he’s ever held the solo lead on the Web.com Tour.

 *Armour’s key to success this week has been his driving accuracy and his scrambling, where he’s successfully gotten up and down 12 of 14 times. That scrambling percentage of 85.71% is tied with Jonathan Hodge for best in the field. He’s hit a field-best 36 of 42 fairways this week. He played this season on the PGA TOUR and posted one top-10 in 20 starts (T4 – Wyndham Championship) and finished the season No. 160 in the FedExCup standings.

* Mitchell, who finished No. 26 on the Regular Season money list, entered the day with a two-shot lead but will trail by one entering the final round in solo second at 11-under 202. Mitchell posted six consecutive pars to open his round before reeling off birdies at Nos. 7, 10 and 11, but he dropped shots at No. 14 and 18 to fall one shot back of Armour. 

* Mitchell is tied with Scott Harrington for the field lead in greens in regulation after hitting 45 of 54 greens so far this week. 

* Before Lanto Griffin’s win at the Nashville Golf Open Benefitting the Snedeker Foundation after making the cut on the number, he had made the cut in just four of his first 11 starts of the season with a T19 as his best finish to that point. But Griffin’s season turned around in Nashville, and he’s now made his last 10 cuts with a victory, a T6, and three additional top-20s. Griffin is in T4 entering the final round after rounds of 69-69-67—205 (-8).  

* Tom Lovelady fired the round of the day with a 7-under 64 to get within two shots of the lead after entering the day seven shots off of the lead. Lovelady is leading the field in putting average (1.571) and putts per round (26.00). Lovelady entered the week leading the TOUR in putting average (1.696) and fourth in putts per round (28.14). Lovelady’s roommate and former teammate at Alabama, Justin Thomas, won the 2014 Nationwide Children’s Hospital Championship.

* Brett Stegmaier’s last trip to the Web.com Tour Finals saw him finish 13th on the Finals money list in 2015 to secure his PGA TOUR card. Stegmaier finished No. 101 in the FedExCup standings in 2016 to keep his TOUR card this season, but after finishing No. 181, he’s back at the Web.com Tour Finals hoping to return to the TOUR. Stegmaier is in T4 entering the final round at the Scarlet Course after a third-round 67. In three starts at the Nationwide Children’s Hospital Championship, Stegmaier’s lone made cut (T57) came in 2014.

* Five-time PGA TOUR winner Ben Crane, who is making his first Web.com Tour start since 2001, enters the final round inside the top 10 in T9 after a third-round 67. Crane is looking to earn his way back to the TOUR, where he has played since 2002 with 383 career starts.

* Abraham Ancer briefly charged into the lead early in the third round after birdies on four of his first six holes to get to 10-under and tie Mitchell, but he played his last 12 holes in 4-over and is six shots back entering the final round after posting an even-par 71. He arrived in Ohio at No. 3 on the Tour money list, just $73,233 behind Brice Garnett. A solo second or better this week would place Ancer in first since Garnett missed the cut. He has recorded three runner-up performances in 20 starts this season.

* 2016 Nationwide Children’s Hospital Championship winner Grayson Murray entered the final round four shots back of the lead but posted a 3-under 68 for a one-shot victory over Cameron Smith. The last time the 54-hole leader went on to win was Justin Thomas in 2014, when he shot a final-round 1-under 70 and emerged in a playoff over Richard Sterne.

* Peter Uihlein is currently No. 12 in the European’s Tour Race to Dubai. Uihlein carded a 4-under 67 to jump into a tie for fourth entering the final round. In seven starts on the PGA TOUR this season, Uihlein has made five cuts and posted three top-25s including a T5 at the Puerto Rico Open. Uihlein has made two appearances at the Nationwide Children’s Hospital Championship with one prior made cut. In 2011, Uihlein recorded rounds of 69-67-70-68 for a 10-under-par score that placed him in a tie for ninth.  

* 2016 U.S. Amateur Champion Curtis Luck is in T21 entering the final round after a third-round 2-under 69.

* Seth Reeves, a Mackenzie Tour – PGA TOUR Canada alum, played in the final group after entering the third round two shots back but posted a 2-over 73 and is six back entering the final round.

* Tee times for the third round were delayed an hour due to heavy rain.

* This is the third year of the Finals format and it’s difficult to estimate 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 two 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
2016    No. 24 Cody Gribble/Kelly Kraft*          $35,125.00

*denotes three events played (Web.com Tour Championship was cancelled)

* Scoring averages for the week:
            Front (36)        Back (35)         Total (71)         Cumulative
R1       36.531             35.608             72.138             —
R2       36.167             35.921             72.087             72.113
R3       35.521             35.141             70.662             71.629

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