5 Things: Gardiner grabs lead at TPC Sawgrass

Scott Gardiner hits his drive on the sixth hole during the third round of the Web.com Tour Championship.

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. –– Scott Gardiner arrived at the Web.com Tour Championship at Dye’s Valley Course at TPC Sawgrass knowing he had already accomplished his chief task at hand: regaining his PGA Tour card for next season.

After shooting a 5-under 65 to grab the 54-hole lead with a total 10-under 200, Gardiner has a chance to end his three-year victory drought.

“It would be nice to add one,” Gardiner said. “My son’s always telling me I need to get a trophy for him. . . . he says, ‘Why does daddy always lose?’ ”

For most of the day, 36-hole leader Chesson Hadley held the top spot, but he finished bogey-double bogey to shoot 70 and fall one stroke back into a tie for second with Joe Durant (68).

Nearly two inches of rain delayed the start of play some two-and-a-half hours.

On the bubble watch for PGA Tour privileges next season, Lee Williams shot a 69 and went from trailing by $1,068 to No. 50 and $976 ahead of Andrew Loupe for the final card.

Here are 5 Things to know from the third round of the Web.com Tour Championship:

• • •

1. ADDED BONUS: When Scott Gardiner finished T-3 at the Hotel Fitness Championship, the kickoff to the 4-event Web.com Tour finals, he received a pleasant surprise in the form of a text. It informed him that he had earned $58,000.

Gardiner didn’t realize the field was playing for a $1 million purse.

“The focus is always to play well and the results, you read them in the paper on Monday,” he said.

Gardiner did some quick math in his head and realized that his haul should be more than enough to retain his PGA Tour privileges in 2013-14.

Gardiner struggled this season, making just seven cuts in 23 starts on the PGA Tour. He finished No. 177 in the FedEx Cup standings. But his play improved late in the year after he started working with instructor Nick Bradley shortly before the Travelers Championship in June.

“He’s taught me to manage myself better on the course, just having a plan,” Gardiner said.

Sunday, his plan is to win one for his son, Kai.

• • •

2. ACES WILD FOR PUTNAM: Andrew Putnam is attempting to join his older brother Michael on the PGA Tour next year. He could’ve been deflated after he flared his tee shot into the water on the 10th hole and made double bogey.

But as he walked to the next tee, he also realized it could’ve been worse had he not coaxed in a 6-footer. Before long, the double would be a distant memory.

With the wind blowing to the left, Putnam punched a 3-iron from 200 yards over water at the par-3 11th hole that landed 3 feet short of the cup and disappeared for a hole-in-one.

“It never left the flag,” said Putnam, who recalled making an ace as a freshman in the final round of the Washington state high school championship, which he won by one stroke.

For good measure, Putnam birdied the next hole for a stretch of 6-1-3 (an area code for surrounding Eastern Ontario and Ottawa).

Putnam finished with a second straight 67 and improved to fourth place heading into the final round. After beginning the week in 70th place on the money list, Putnam is projected at No. 15.

“I know I have to play pretty good, but I don’t have to win,” he said.

• • •

3. CAULEY, CADDIE PART WAYS: Bud Cauley shot a 5-under 65, tied for the low round of the day, and enters the final round T-6, just four shots back.

One notable difference for Cauley this week has been the caddie by his side.

Cauley told Golfweek that he and Tony Navarro parted ways after the Nationwide Children’s Hospital Championship. Navarro has caddied for Greg Norman and Adam Scott in the past. Instead, Cauley had Mike Zubela, a six-year veteran on the golf staff at TPC Sawgrass, toting his bag.

“He’s in charge of outside operations here at TPC (Sawgrass), so I know him just from playing and practicing out here,” Cauley said. “That’s just this week right now and we’ll see what happens going forward.”

• • •

4. PETERSON LANDS BIG-TIME CADDIE: Bud Cauley won’t be the only player making a high-profile caddie change this week.

When John Peterson debuts on the PGA Tour next season, he will have an experienced looper to show him the ropes. Peterson has hired Scott Gneiser, the longtime caddie of David Toms.

Gneiser had been on Toms’ bag for 15 years, and for 12 of his 13 Tour wins, including the PGA Championship in 2001.

“It was one of the toughest phone calls I ever had to make,” Gneiser said.

Toms, 48, and Peterson, 24, both played at LSU, and Toms has served as a mentor to Peterson. He loaned Gneiser to Peterson when he competed at the John Deere Classic last year on a sponsor’s exemption, and started with him at the Hotel Fitness Championship, the first of the four events in the Web.com Tour Finals.

When Peterson asked him to be his full-time caddie next season, Gneiser decided it was too good of an opportunity to pass

“I feel like (John’s) got a lot of upside,” Gneiser said.

• • •

5. LOUPE ON THE BUBBLE: Andrew Loupe is trying to embrace the challenge of earning a PGA Tour card for the first time.

Loupe, 24, carded a 67 and jumped to T-6. Heading into the final round, he is projected to be the odd man out for the 50 Tour cards handed out on Sunday. He trails by $975.

Loupe’s round included eight birdies, three bogeys and a double. Loupe, an LSU grad, was paired with Hudson Swafford, a Georgia Bulldog. The on-course banter featured plenty of talk about the duel between the Tigers and Bulldogs on the gridiron, which Georgia won.

“We were smack talking, but it’s game day. You have, too. It’s healthy,” Loupe said.

When asked how he felt about being so close and yet still so far from accomplishing his goal to play on Tour next season, Loupe said, “It’s a little nerve-wracking, but it’s fun” and added, “I guess we’ll find out tomorrow.”

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