Steele 5 ahead at N'wide Championship

Brendan Steele hits from the 18th tee box during the third round of the Nationwide Tour Championship.

CHARLESTON, S.C. – Brendan Steele put himself in great position to earn a 2011 PGA Tour card, shooting a 7-under 65 on Saturday to take a five-stroke lead in the season-ending Nationwide Tour Championship.

No. 30 on the money list entering the tournament, Steele needs only to move into the top 25 to earn a spot on the big tour. The winner will receive $180,000 from the $1 million purse.

The 27-year-old former University of California-Riverside player had a 14-under 202 total on the Daniel Island Club’s Ralston Creek course. James Hahn (67) and Colt Knost (70) were tied for second.

Steele birdied six of the his first seven holes.

“It was fun today, but not as much as you’d think,” Steele said. “It’s still a grind no matter what’s going on, no matter how well you’re playing. A hot start makes it a lot easier.”

He earned $166,258 in his first 25 events this year, leaving him $21,735 behind No. 25 Chris Nallen.

“I know what can happen with this game if you start wandering a little bit or get caught up in what’s going on,” Steele said. “My caddie’s been doing a good job of keeping me focused and that will be the game plan tomorrow. I slept fine last night. I don’t know about tonight. I’ll try to keep the same routine. Go home and watch the World Series and get the L.A. Kings game going on my computer.”

Hahn, 29th on the money list, rebounded from a second-round 74.

“I did exactly the same thing I did yesterday,” Hahn. “The putts just went in today. It’s a fine line between shooting 5 under and 2 over. Tomorrow I’m going to go out there and try to make a lot of putts and count ‘em up in the end. I’m not going to worry about much.”

Knost is 36th on the money list with $153,090

“It’s tough,” said Knost, the 2007 U.S. Amateur champion. “You’re nervous whenever you’re in contention. There’s a lot more at stake this week.”

No. 23 B.J. Staten (74) and No 24. Nate Smith (72) were tied for 42nd at 4 over, and No. 25 Nallen (70) was tied for 22nd at 2 under.

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