Lanto Griffin was enjoying his salmon-and-crab meal Tuesday night at an Omaha restaurant next to Kristoffer Ventura and his steak.
Five days later, they’re hungering for the same main course — a win Sunday at the Pinnacle Bank Championship.
“From sitting next to each other to playing together, that will be fun,’’ Ventura said.
The second-round leader shot 67 Saturday at Indian Creek to reach 15-under and lead Griffin by one entering the final round that begins at 8 a.m. They will be in the final threesome with Tyson Alexander (11-under).
The dinner Griffin and Ventura attended at Mahogany Prime was thrown by the Korn Ferry Tour for its champions this season.
“Whenever you get a free dinner on the tour, you take it,’’ Griffin said.
Ventura said he picked Griffin’s brain.
“Hey, in my position, what would you guys do? Would you take a week off?” Ventura said. “He said just play everything from now because you’d regret that later. Knowing myself, if I go home for a week, after two or three days, I’m itching to get back on the golf course, and I would hate to look at the leaderboard and know I could be there.”
Griffin, 31, is fifth in Korn Ferry points and has a first and a second this year. Ventura, 24, is 22nd in only six starts. He won three weeks ago in Utah.
Ten strokes out of the lead is Omaha’s Scott Gutschewski, tied for 17th after a 73 dropped him to 5-under. Norfolk 19-year-old amateur Luke Kluver struggled to a 76, taking three double bogeys, and is at 5-over.
Scores stagnated for many when the wind shifted from south to north and became stronger. At mid-afternoon, Indian Creek was being played about three-tenths of a stroke under par, and by the end the field played the round about three-tenths of a stroke over.
“It started out and it felt like we were in a sauna,’’ Gutschewski said. “We got to 9 and it was just a little bit of help and then it started blowing on the second shot. It was like out of the northeast, east, which is kind of strange. We don’t get the east wind a whole lot. And then it just blew the rest of the day.”
Griffin’s 64 was the low round Saturday.
“This is probably my favorite golf course on the Korn Ferry Tour,’’ said Griffin, who played Indian Creek in 2017 while finishing a season that graduated him to the 2018 PGA Tour. “When you love a course, it’s easier to have a good attitude.
“I played OK the first two days, didn’t feel like I got a whole lot out of my rounds, made a couple mistakes. But today I got off to a good start.”
Understatement. His first four holes: birdie, birdie, birdie, eagle.
Ventura went 32 holes without a bogey before making ones back-to-back on the back nine, ceding the lead to Griffin. He got it back with consecutive birdies that came after he broke the bogey streak with a 6-foot par putt as the wind gusted.
He kept the lead with an up-and-down for par on 18.
Who knows? If weather should adversely affect the final round, that could have saved a win.
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Scott Gutschewski’s 2-over 73 in the third round of the Pinnacle Bank Championship would have plunged him down the leaderboard many Saturdays.
Not this week. The Omaha tour veteran dropped only 10 spots, to a tie for 17th at 5-under, entering Sunday’s final round at Indian Creek.
“I knew it was tough with that wind. You’re trying not to screw up and salvage what you can,’’ Gutschewski said. “Every shot is important, and you’re trying to finish as high as you can.”
His highlight of the round was an eagle on the par-5 15th as he hit a 6-iron to six feet. It offset a double bogey on 12, when he bladed a shot from a fairway bunker into a penalty area along the right side of the hole. But he also bogeyed the par-3 17th, which took him out of a tie for ninth and into a slightly earlier tee time Sunday.
He’ll start at 10:46 a.m. with Zac Blair and Blayne Barber.
Too many doubles for Kluver
Luke Kluver’s third round had a fast start and a solid finish. But in the middle, playing nine holes in 7-over par wrecked his round.
Norfolk’s three-time Class A high school champion, who will play this fall at Kansas, finished the front nine double bogey, double bogey, bogey. A third double bogey, on 13, sent him to 6-over.
He birdied the par-5 15th and parred the final three holes to shoot 5-over 76 — his highest score of the week after a pair of even-par 71s — to be at 5-over for the tournament and in an 8 a.m. starting time Sunday.
“We were 2-under through four holes, and that was the start I wanted,’’ Kluver said. “I was in good position on the par-5 (No. 7) and hit a very loose shot that got away from me and I made double there. And unfortunately I had a couple more of those coming in.
“It’s too bad I didn’t keep it rolling. The swing felt good.”
What he learned from the round is that it could have been worse.
“I stayed with it. My patience was still there,’’ Kluver said.
» Rookie Kristoffer Ventura holds the 54-hole lead for the first time in his Korn Ferry Tour career. Ventura looks to become the 10th 54-hole leader/co-leader to go on and win this season. Nelson Ledesma accomplished the feat last week at the TPC Colorado Championship at Heron Lakes.
» This week's purse is $600,000, with $108,000 going to the champion. The winner will also receive 500 Korn Ferry Tour points.
» The par-3 fifth hole (218 yards) ranked as the toughest hole on the course Saturday, playing to an average of 3.224. The par-5 15th hole (573 yards) ranked as the easiest hole.
After twosomes for the third round, Sunday’s play will be in threesomes with an eye on the weather.
One option if there are storms overnight or in the morning will be to start at 10 a.m. and use the first and 10th tees. The hope is for a 5 p.m. finish, as would be the case with an 8 a.m., first-tee start.
Eyes on the skies
Let’s hope the weather forecasts don’t come to pass. But if play is affected Sunday, the schedule allows for only four hours of delays before sunset. Call this a reverse jinx. It works when I cover the Nebraska high school track meet and the heavy stuff never comes down.
Scott Gutschewski hopes it’s an edge for him if the wind comes from the north as predicted on Sunday: “I’ve seen this course with a north wind. I don’t know how many of these guys have.”
Saturday’s turnout of 12,562, again in hotter weather than in 2018, trailed last year’s 13,891. Last year’s final round drew 12,264.
Time for giving
The tour’s Truck Charities awarded $1,000 to the Douglas County Fraternal Order of Police No. 2, matched by Pinnacle Bank, for gifts at Christmas for young patients at UNMC. More funds were raised Friday night by the PBC 15th Club for the Lane Thomas Fund, partly through a dunk tank. The first one to take the plunge was pro Scott Harrington, whose family received a large donation last year for medical expenses.
Who to watch
Luke Kluver (5-over), 8 a.m.: Double bogeys are round-killers, and the incoming Kansas freshman from Norfolk. He can draw off that 1-under finish to go after his first under-par round of the tournament.
Scott Gutschewski (5-under), 10:46 a.m.: Sitting 109th in points, a strong finish would help push him inside the top 75 at the end of the regular season for the finals and make moot his medical exemption that can carry over through early next season.
MJ Daffue and Denzel Ieremia (both 6-under), 11:34 a.m.: These Monday qualifiers, tied for ninth, need to stay in the top 25 to be in the field next week at Springfield, Missouri. Daffue, from South Africa, is 30, Iowa State grad Ieremia, from New Zealand, just 23.
Tyson Alexander (11-under), 12:10 p.m.: Being in the last group is big for the Florida Gator. If he stays third, he jumps from 88th to 47th and into the finals.
Lanto Griffin (14-under), 12:10 p.m.: A win would be his second of the year and move him into fourth in points.
Kristoffer Ventura (15-under), 12:10 p.m.: A win would be his second in four weeks and move him into sixth in points.
8 a.m.: Luke Kluver, Marcelo Rozo
8:08: William Harrold, Will Cannon
8:19: Vince India, Tyler McCumber, Andre Metzger
8:30: Paul Haley II, Jon Curran, Matt Hill
8:41: Joseph Winslow, Sam Love, J.T. Griffin
8:52: Chris Baker, Max Greyserman, Michael Hebert
9:03: Drew Weaver, Steven Alker, Thomas Bass
9:14: Trevor Cone, Horacio Leon, Ben Taylor
9:25: Mark Hubbard, Dawie van der Walt, Will Zalatoris
9:36: Ben Martin, Davis Riley, Kyle Reifers
9:47: Rhein Gibson, Rafael Campos, Martin Flores
9:58: Garrett Osborn, Scottie Scheffler, Brett Drewitt
10:10: Brian Campbell, Blake Cannon, Nicholas Thompson
10:22: Billy Kennerly, Taylor Moore, Callum Tarren
10:34: Eric Steger, Conrad Shindler, Ben Kohles
10:46: Zac Blair, Scott Gutschewski, Blayne Barber
10:58: T.J. Vogel, Jonathan Randolph, Steven Ihm
11:10: Brett Coletta, Harry Higgs, Bo Hoag
11:22: Zach Wright, Edward Loar, Joseph Bramlett
11:34: MJ Daffue, Ethan Tracy, Denzel Ieremia
11:46: Andres Gonzales, Jamie Arnold, Andy Zhang
11:58: Byron Meth, John Oda, Chad Ramey
12:10 p.m.: Kristoffer Ventura, Lanto Griffin, Tyson Alexander