Matt Bettencourt, Bronson La'Cassie and John Peterson, who were Saturday's best threesome, move up to top billing for Super Sunday at the Cox Classic.
It's the final regular-season event on the Web.com Tour. Besides the chase for the championship and the $144,000 first prize, the first half of next season's 50 PGA Tour cards will be handed out at Champions Run to the top 25 money winners.
“Playing the PGA Tour is why you play this tour,'' La'Cassie said. “And getting a first win would be nice.”
The Aussie, who played his college golf at Minnesota, and Bettencourt shared the 54-hole lead at 17-under-par 196 on a rare windy tournament day at Champions Run. Peterson is a stroke back.
Only two strokes behind at 15 under is Michael Putnam, who virtually is assured of being the No. 1 money winner and receiving a full PGA Tour exemption.
Putnam is one of four golfers within five strokes of the Omaha lead safely inside the top-25 cutoff. The others are No. 10 Alex Prugh at 13 under and No. 5 Will Wilcox and No. 6 Kevin Tway at 12 under.
At No. 33, La’Cassie is the closest in Sunday’s final group to a tour card. He probably needs a top-five finish.
Peterson, at No. 60, and Bettencourt at No. 63 need to win or take second.
The three combined Saturday for 17 birdies and a spectacular eagle by La’Cassie on a hole-out on the par-5 17th. Bettencourt and La’Cassie had 65s and Peterson 66.
“We had a great pairing,’’ Bettencourt said. “Maybe we’ll make 30 birdies tomorrow.”
The 38-year-old, who won on the PGA Tour in 2010 at Reno, was in the lead for most of the back nine. He needed to two-putt from 60 feet for a birdie on 17 to tie La’Cassie at 17 under after the eagle.
“He made an unbelievable pitch shot and it wasn’t an easy shot,’’ Bettencourt said.
La’Cassie, who’s 30, said his second shot had been off an awkward lie in the first cut of rough and he wanted to miss to the right if he didn’t find the green. It found a swale pin-high for a pitch shot of 20 yards that he hit with a 60-degree wedge.
“The pitch was up and over a little ridge,’’ he said. “I wanted to pop it up and let it trickle down. I thought it was too far right, but it broke more than I thought.”
On the 18th, he missed a 15-footer for the outright lead.
Bettencourt bogeyed the second hole for his only glitch. His seven birdies were the most in his group.
“The key to this course, I think, is driving it well and I drove it nicely on the back nine,” Bettencourt said. “I struggled a little bit off the tee for the first six or seven holes.
“I focused on my rhythm, slowed it down.”
Peterson, at 24 the youngest in the lead group, is an ex-LSU golfer who finished fourth at the 2012 U.S. Open.
He shared the lead at 16 under with three holes to play, but bogeyed the par-3 16th.
The hard-luck story Saturday was third-round leader Brice Garnett, who does have his PGA Tour card secured.
He made a mess of the par-4 fourth hole, taking a quadruple-bogey 8. His drive went into the high grass along the right side. After taking one whack at the ball and moving it about 8 inches, he swung again and then declared an unplayable lie.
Garnett got back the four strokes with birdies over the next seven holes, then there was more misery for the Missouri Western graduate. A bogey on 12, a double bogey on 14, a double on 16 and a triple on 17. It added up to 80 and a free-fall to a tie for 57th.
Those who held or shared the lead Saturday were Garnett, Andrew Loupe, Peterson, La’Cassie, Miguel Angel Carballo, Hunter Haas, Bettencourt, Nick O’Hern and Putnam.
So sick on Friday that he needed an IV in the scoring trailer, Putnam shared the lead Saturday at 15 under with Bettencourt and Peterson before a bogey on the par-3 16th.
Peterson was the first to 16 under, making birdie on the 15th before Bettencourt matched his fellow competitor.