Cole Hammer pulled ahead on Saturday but doubled 18 (Golf Digest photo)
CHARLESTON, SC (March 24, 2018) - Cole Hammer (Houston, TX) outdueled Hugo Bernard (Canada) in the third round of the Azalea Invitational at the Country Club of Charleston, but a double bogey on the final hole reduced his lead from 4 shots to 2 heading into Sunday's final round.
Hammer and Bernard started the day far ahead of the rest of the field, after rounds of 63 and 65 respectively on Friday. At 10 under par, their cushion was eight shots, but each player started slowly on Saturday, bogeying the first hole.
Bernard took a two-shot lead though six holes, but a two-shot swing at the par-4 8th squared them up again.
Hammer began to take control of the tournament on the back nine, picking up shots on Bernard at the 10th, 11th, 13th, and 14th holes. When both players birdied the par-5 15th, Hammer was 12 under for the tournament and Bernard was 8 under.
Hammer's lead was still 4 on the 18th tee, but a double-bogey 6 at the difficult uphill par 4 dashed his hopes of a third straight round in the 60s, and cut his lead to a far less comfortable 2 shots heading into the final round.
Hammer finished with an even-par 71, while Bernard shot 73.
The inability of Hammer and Bernard to go low on Saturday allowed a few players to get into contention. Last year's runner-up Joseph Pagdin (Orlando, FL) shot a second-straight 4-under 67, the low round of the day, to get to 6 under for the tournament and four shots behind Hammer. Both players tied for second last year, one shot behind winner Chris Petefish.
Joey Savoie (Canada) also shot a 67 to get to 5 under for the tournament, tied for fourth with mid-amateur Patrick Christovich (New Orleans, LA), who shot 68.
The chasers will probably have to hope that the leaders have similar struggles tomorrow, otherwise it could be the two-man race it looked like it would be when the third round started.
Continuing his Masters prep, U.S. Mid-Amateur champion Matt Parziale (Brockton, MA) shot a 74 and is tied for 16th at 3 over par. 2015 Azalea champion Todd White (Spartanburg, SC) is at the same number.
For the final round, the field has been cut to the low 60 and ties; the cut fell at 10-over 223.
SECOND ROUND RECAP
Hugo Bernard (Canada) and Cole Hammer (Houston, TX) threatened to turn the Azalea Invitational into a two-man tournament, as each went deep in the second round at the Country Club of Charleston.
Bernard, the first round leader after a 4-under 67, shot a 65 on Friday to get to 10 under for the tournament. Bernard made his only bogey of the tournament thus far on the 8th hole, but more than offset that with five birdies and an eagle on the par-5 15th.
Related: Bernard Takes the Early Lead at the Azalea Invitational
Hammer went even lower. The University of Texas commit birdied the first hole, bogeyed the third, and then erupted for 8 more birdies on the way to an 8-under 63. Hammer's scorecard was beautiful, with nothing more than a 4 and a back nine of 30 shots. Hammer also sits at 10-under 132 for 36 holes.
If anyone other than Bernard and Hammer is going to win the tournament, they will have to make a huge move. The next closest players, sitting in a tie for third place, are eight shots behind the co-leaders.
The group at 2-under 140 includes last year's runner-up Joseph Pagdin (Orlando, FL), who shot 67 on Friday. Accomplished mid-amateurs Patrick Christovich (New Orleans, LA) and Matt Broome (Barrington, RI) are also tied for third after rounds of 69 and 70, respectively.
Two other Canadians are in the top 10: Josh Whalen at 2-under 140 and Joey Savoie at 1-under 141.
U.S. Mid-Amateur champion Matt Parziale (Brockton, MA) sits tied for 13th after rounds of 72-70 as he continues his preparation for the Masters in two weeks time.
After a cool and breezy round one, scores were lower across the board in round two, with 12 rounds in the 60s posted at the 1925 Seth Raynor layout.
Play continues Saturday with round three, followed by a cut to the low 60 and ties for Sunday's final round.
ABOUT THE Azalea Invitational
72-hole stroke play championship with a 54-hole cut
Seth Raynor design. Good mix of college
and mid amateurs. 7 spots available in a
Impressive list of past champions at this
traditional event. Reigning USGA champs often use
this tournament as a tune-up for the Masters.
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