PUNTA CANA, Dominican Republic (AP) — Ben Martin shot a 2-under 70 on Saturday to hold onto a two-shot lead in the PGA Tour’s Corales Puntacana Championship.
Martin had five birdies and three bogeys as the wind dropped a bit at Corales Golf Course to take a 14-under 202 total into the final round. He opened with consecutive 66s.
“Not a 66, but 2 under, I felt like it was solid.,” Martin said “Not sort of being in a final pairing in I don’t remember when, so a little bit of nerves like to start the round, but made a couple pars and then birdied the third hole to kind of settle in.
"The golf course is starting to firm up a little bit. The wind wasn’t blowing quite as much, so maybe those things kind of balanced out. All in all, pretty pleased with 2-under par.”
The 34-year-old former Clemson player has made only one other PGA Tour start this year, missing the cut in Puerto Rico with rounds of 78 and 70. He won the 2014 Shriners Hospitals for Children Open for his lone PGA Tour title.
“At the end of the day, really, I’m going to keep doing what I’ve been trying to do all week, which is just enjoy being out there, not try too hard and sort of see what happens at the end,” Martin said. “But this is really the reason I think I enjoy playing professional golf, like being around the lead on the weekend with a chance to win. You have a little nerves, but I think that’s why we all like to test ourselves and see where we are, so it will be a fun day tomorrow.
Chad Ramey was second after a 69. He eagled the par-5 14th.
“We just had a great number,” Ramey said. “I believe the number we had was 146 (yards to the) hole with a little help and it was just a perfect wedge. Couldn’t have asked for a better shot. Landed 2 short I believe and hopped on in.”
The 29-year-old from Mississippi is seeking his first tour victory.
“Don’t change a thing,” Ramey said. “Obviously, I’m doing something right, so I’m just going to stick to my game plan and just see what happens.”
Three-time tour winner Jhonattan Vegas had a 65 — the best round of the week — to get to 11 under, and Cameron Percy (67) was 10 under with Martin Trainer (67), Thomas Detry (68), David Lipsky (68) and Nate Lashley (69).
“Less wind, that’s for sure,” Vegas said. “It was blowing, but it wasn’t blowing anywhere close to what it’s been blowing the whole week. Once the wind’s going to be that way, easy to get the mind on being a little more aggressive. Some pretty good shots, made a few good putts, but mainly just keeping a pretty aggressive mentality throughout the round.”
Vegas eagled the par-5 seventh, hitting a 5-iron to 9 feet.
“Being Venezuelan, having a lot of Venezuelans that have migrated to here to the Dominican Republic, it’s actually a great feel kind of having that home feel to it,” Vegas said. “It’s been fun, it’s been a fun week. It’s always a great place for me here.”
With the tournament being played opposite the Match Play event in Austin, Texas, the winner will be exempt into the PGA Championship but not the Masters.