Scott Gutschewski’s alarm clock can ring a lot later Saturday.
It’s going to ring very early for Norfolk 19-year-old Luke Kluver, but he won’t mind.
After Gutschewski played his way into the last groups for the third round of the Pinnacle Bank Championship with a 6-under 65 Friday at Indian Creek, Kluver became the third youngest to make a cut in Omaha with a one-putt par on the last hole.
Gutschewski had the best score in the 10 rounds he has played at the PBC, including in 2017 when he tied for second.
“It’s great to post a good score and get in good position,” he said.
Kluver recovered from a tee shot on the 18th hole that left him with a lie in the fairway bunker that he could hack out only to 100 yards. He hit the wedge shot to 8 feet and was dead center with the putt.
“Luckily, I’ve had similar putts in my career,” he said. “But to do it on a bigger stage, one that means I feel like a little more, I’m excited to play this weekend.”
He’ll be in the first twosome off the tee Saturday at Indian Creek, 7:40 a.m. with pro Matt Hill. Gutschewski starts at 12:30 p.m. with Brett Coletta his fellow competitor.
Gutschewski will be trying to make up ground on leader Kristoffer Ventura, who tied the second-round scoring record for the PBC with a 64 that put him at 11-under, one stroke ahead of Tyson Alexander.
“Pretty much everything went well,” Ventura said. “Pretty solid golf. No bogeys, which is always good. I missed a couple short putts, but I stayed patient because I knew I would have more chances.”
Alexander shot 66, and Chad Ramey had a 67 and is third at 9-under. First-round leader Byron Meth shot 70 on three birdies against two bogeys to be three back and tied for fourth with Andres Gonzales (67) and John Oda (65) at 8-under. Not around for the weekend are Korn Ferry Tour points leader Xinjun Zhang (6-over) and No. 2 Robby Shelton (12-over).
The other two Nebraskans in the field missed the cut of par 142. Brandon Crick of McCook was at 143 after a 2-under 69, and Ryan Vermeer of Omaha slid to 147 with a 3-over 74.
Gutschewski said he hit the ball closer Friday, though he considered both days to be good ball-striking rounds.
He enjoyed a stretch of five birdies in six holes, needing putts of only 4 feet, 5 feet, 8 feet, 4 feet and 3 feet. His longest birdie putt was a 20-footer on the par-4 12th. After that, it was pars coming home.
“It’s tough. It’s windy. Where the fairway bunkers sit and where the fairways sit, it’s tough to get it into the fairway,” Gutschewski said. “On my second nine, I didn’t get it into the fairway as much, and the wind came up a little bit, so couldn’t really keep it going. All in all it was a good day.”
Gutschewski continued to wear white liner sleeves to protect his arms from the sun and serve as a cooling agent.
Kluver, who signed with Kansas, never got under par in the second round after a bogey on the par-5 sixth but kept returning to the cut line with birdies on 7 and 14, the latter a 20-footer five holes after a bogey on 9.
“That one on 14 was one that had to go in,” he said. “It was good to see it go in, and it jump-started my round.”
The pressure is off for making the cut, Kluver said, but not for playing well.
“I want to go out there and shoot two more good rounds,” he said. “It’s a big step. I know I can make a cut on a tour like this. My game is there, just need to do little things like making a putt to jump-start the round or an up-and-down when you need to.”
How does Gutschewski approach the weekend, which starts with him tied for seventh and four strokes behind leader Ventura?
“Keep hitting greens, keep giving yourself chances,” he said. “The greens are rolling nice, so if you give yourself a lot of opportunities you should make a few. Drive it into the fairway on the par-5s and see if you can make birdie on a few of those and a couple of others.”
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Kristoffer Ventura’s life has been about globe-trotting — born in Mexico, he grew up in Norway and played college golf in Stillwater, Oklahoma.
Soon he could be seeing the golf world through the PGA Tour.
In only his seventh start of the Korn Ferry Tour season, with a win just three weeks ago, the 2018 Oklahoma State graduate is the 36-hole leader at the Pinnacle Bank Championship.
Ventura tied the second-round record at Indian Creek with a no-bogey 64, 7-under on the 7,581-yard course, to start Saturday at 11-under. He stands 15th on the tour points list.
“To win a few weeks ago was unbelievable and now, instead of chasing the top 75, I’m chasing the top 25,” he said. “Right now I don’t want to think about it too much and I’m not looking at the scoreboards or the projected whatever. I have four tournaments left and I’ll do my best.”
Ventura’s father is Mexican and Kristoffer was born in Puebla. His mother is Norwegian and the family moved to Norway when he was 12.
He said Oklahoma State coach Alan Bratton spotted him and Viktor Hovland, two years younger, at a tournament in Scotland. Hovland recently turned pro after being the low amateur this year at the Masters and U.S. Open. Ventura said he helped steer Hovland to Oklahoma State.
Ventura was a three-time All-American with the Cowboys, who won the NCAA championship in 2018 in his final tournament. Going through Q-school last fall, he needed an appendectomy just days before the finals and he finished in a tie for 129th, too low to get into many early-season events. He tried the Monday qualifiers and got through only once and missed the cut.
He was encouraged by playing four rounds at the PGA Tour’s Valero Texas Open, where he had a sponsor’s exemption, and he cashed in big on the sponsor’s exemption he got from the BMW Charity Pro-Am. He tied for third. Two events later, he won at Utah.
Puzzling rounds for Nebraskans
Neither Brandon Crick of McCook, who missed the cut by one, nor Ryan Vermeer of Omaha, who missed by four, could make sense out of his second round.
“I played so much better than I scored, and that’s been the story of the past two days,” Crick said. “The most baffling thing to me is I hit 10 fairways yesterday and shot 3-over and hit four fairways today and shoot 2-under (69).
“It’s kind of a crazy game, and maybe I just grinded a little harder because I was hitting out of the rough all day. I actually saw some putts go in, which was refreshing.”
Vermeer, who opened with a 73, was back at even for the tournament after four holes. But a bogey on 7 dropped him back and he was done in by bogeys on holes 12 to 14.
“The level of play I had today was 10 times better than I had yesterday and had a worse score. Go figure,” said the director of instruction at Happy Hollow. “I was going along pretty good, missed a couple of opportunities, and then I hit it into a divot on the 12th. I knew going long was bad, so I protected against that, left it way short and three-putted.
“I thought I hit a good shot on the par-3 and the wind never got it and ended up left. Tried to putt from the fairway and didn’t get it up-and-down. So it was kind of a snowball.”
Next week, Vermeer will be playing his last of six starts on the PGA Tour for winning the 2018 PGA Professional Championship at the Barracuda Championship in Reno, Nevada.
Alexander remains at his best
Tyson Alexander is continuing his best stretch of the season. The 2010 Florida graduate, a 31-year-old tour rookie, made his fifth cut in a row and seeks his fifth top-20 finish in as many weeks.
His second 66 in as many rounds has his at 10-under, one back of Ventura.
“I was a little better today, to be honest,” he said. “I was driving it well, I hit some good iron shots and I made some putts. I was kind of staying out of my own way pretty much.”
He joined the Korn Ferry Tour after two years on the PGA Tour Latinoamerica. He won a tournament in Costa Rica.
“It definitely gave me a lot of confidence,” said Alexander, who’s 88th in points. “I traveled the world quite a bit and got a win. I don’t think I missed a cut last year (2018) and I played pretty consistent. I would say that’s a big part of my success this year.”
Zach Wright matched Ventura for low round of day
Zach Wright, who is tied for 13th at 5-under, matched Ventura for the low round of the day and the tournament record for the second round.
Only four out of 20 36-hole leaders/co-leaders have gone on to win the tournament this year, though Nelson Ledesma accomplished the feat last week at the TPC Colorado Championship at Heron Lakes.
Forty-seven Korn Ferry Tour winners are in the field this week, combining for 70 victories.
The par-4 ninth hole (478 yards) ranked as the toughest hole on the course Friday, playing to an average of .464 strokes over par.
About a dozen members of Millard North’s national champion dance team volunteered as standard bearers for Friday afternoon groups.
A golf clap is warranted for the 8,162 who braved the tournament record-tying 115-degree heat index Friday. The attendance almost matched last year’s 8,234 under much cooler conditions.
The first look Luke Kluver had at his lie in the fairway bunker on 18, he flipped his club in frustration. He shook it off fast. The 8-footer he made to get into the weekend on the cut line was clutch, as much as the one Sunday on 9 to get the Indian Creek Invitational win and sponsor’s exemption.
When he finished his round at noon, Scott Gutschewski was tied for seventh at 7-under. But no one passed him. Only one in the afternoon half of the field, Brett Coletta from Australia, got to 7-under and he’s paired with Gutschewski in the third round.
Who to watch
Kluver (even), 7:40 a.m.: The future Jayhawk from Norfolk got to be Saturday’s earlybird with his clutch 8-footer for par on the 36th hole to make the cut on the number.
Ben Kohles (3-under), 11:10 a.m.: The 2012 Cox Classic winner down the road at Champions Run started the season tying for second, but he hasn’t had another top-20 finish. He’s tied for 23rd going into Saturday.
Denzel Ieremia (4-under), 11:40 a.m.: In the best position of the five Monday qualifiers still playing, the Iowa State graduate will be looking for a top-25 finish or better to move on to Springfield, Missouri, next week.
Gutschewski (7-under), 12:30 p.m.: Omaha’s favorite son on tour is coming off his lowest round ever in the PBC and he’s in contention to win for the first time since 2008.
Saturday tee times
7:40 a.m.: Luke Kluver-a, Matt Hill
7:50: Vince India, Andy Zhang
8: Steven Alker, Dawie van der Walt
8:10: Jon Curran, Rafael Campos
8:20: Will Zalatoris, William Harrold
8:30: Matthew Campbell, Marcelo Rozo
8:40: Martin Flores, Michael Hebert
8:50: Tyler McCumber, Trevor Cone
9: Will Cannon, Harry Higgs
9:10: Thomas Bass, Joseph Winslow
9:20: Blayne Barber, Bo Hoag
9:30: Sam Love, Chris Baker
9:40: Horacio Leon, Blake Cannon
9:50: J.T. Griffin, Andre Metzger
10: Nicholas Thompson, Ben Taylor
10:10: Garrett Osborn, Ben Martin
10:20: Eric Steger, Paul Haley II
10:30: Drew Weaver, Scottie Scheffler
10:40: Brett Drewitt, T.J. Vogel
10:50: Davis Riley, Jonathan Randolph
11: Kyle Reifers, Conrad Shindler
11:10: Ben Kohles, MJ Daffue
11:20: Ethan Tracy, Billy Kennerly
11:30: Taylor Moore, Max Greyserman
11:40: Mark Hubbard, Denzel Ieremia
11:50: Callum Tarren, Steven Ihm
Noon: Zach Wright, Edward Loar
12:10 p.m.: Rhein Gibson, Jamie Arnold
12:20: Joseph Bramlett, Zac Blair
12:30: Scott Gutschewski, Brett Coletta
12:40: Brian Campbell, Lanto Griffin
12:50: Byron Meth, John Oda
1: Chad Ramey, Andres Gonzales
1:10: Kristoffer Ventura, Tyson Alexander