Sunday, February 24, 2013


By Joe Chemycz, Tour staff
PANAMA CITY, Panama – Australian Mathew Goggin fired a 4-under 66 Saturday to move into sole possession of the 54-hole lead at the Panama Claro Championship, the initial stop on the 2013 Tour schedule. Goggin jumped to the front of the pack of with his 7-under 203 total, two shots better than Texans Bobby Gates (68) and Roland Thatcher (69) and Kevin Foley (70) of New Jersey.
Georgia’s Brendon Todd (69) is alone in fifth place, three shots back heading into Sunday’s finale.
Five others -- Chesson Hadley (67), Chris Wilson (70), Peter Tomasulo (71), Vaughn Taylor (71) and Len Mattiace (72) are four back.
Second-round leader Dae-Hyun Kim of Korea stumbled with back-to-back double-bogeys on the front nine and wound up shooting a 75 that left him T11.
The whole group is chasing Goggin, who lives in the Phoenix area and has now posted seven straight sub-par scores at the par-70 Panama Golf Club, which annually ranks among the toughest on tour. Only 16 of the 64 players who made the cut managed to break par in the third round.
Saturday’s scoring average of 71.656 marked the 36th time in 38 tournament rounds that the field has been over-par at the 7,171-yard layout. Goggin, in the meantime, is 18-under in his seven rounds and boasts a scoring average of 67.42.
“There are just courses that you like to play,” said Goggin, who came from four shots back to win here two years ago. “They may not necessarily be the finest golf courses around the world but for whatever reason it agrees with me so far.”
Goggin’s round of 66 was the best of a hot, windy day in Central America and stamped the 38-yeard old as the man to beat on a course where he has yet to lose.
“I just think the conditions suit my game,” he said. “It’s not an Australian-style golf course but I’ve had a lot of experience playing in windy, fast conditions and I’m used to having to work the ball with shaping and bounces as opposed to just flying it to the hole.”
Goggin got it close enough to run in six birdies, along with a couple of critical par-saving putts, one of which was in the 18-20 foot range.
“The lines are a bit tricky because they’re a little grainy and they get fast and have some slope in them,” he said. “You can get a bit confused and the first couple of days I wasn’t seeing the line that great and feel like I got locked in there. Today, you hit a really nice putt and you start to feel really good about it. I just got comfortable with the putter.”
Gates moved into contention by using just the right combination of drivers and 2-irons off the tees. The driver in his bag is brand new.
“It’s really easy to just line up there and let it go and you know exactly where it’s going,” he said. “I’m hitting a lot of 2-irons to get the ball in the fairways. The combination of being aggressive when I can be and knowing when to hit it in the fairway is huge. When the wind’s blowing it’s really tough because it swirls through the trees and if the ball gets moving in the wrong direction it won’t stop because it’s so firm out here.”
• Saturday weather: mostly sunny, wind N 10-20 mph and a high of 93.
• This week’s total purse is $600,000 with $108,000 to the winner.
• Mathew Goggin is a four-time winner on the Tour, having won twice in 1999 and twice again in 2011. The 38-year-old has also made 276 career starts on the PGA TOUR. Last year, Goggin made the cut in 10 of 23 starts and had a pair of top-25 finishes and wound up No. 192 in the FedExCup standings.





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