French Lick, Ind. - Nine golfers broke par in the third round of the 97th Indiana Open Championship presented by Visit French Lick/West Baden. However, none of those sub-par rounds came from anyone in the last three groups of the day. The result is a crowded leaderboard entering Thursday’s final round with 18 golfers within 5 shots of the lead.
As play returns to the demanding Dye Course for the final 18 holes, it should provide for a memorable finish. Wednesday’s play was something that the second round leaders would soon forget.
Looking for his fifth Indiana Open title, Indianapolis’ Jeff Cook jumped off to a fast start with a birdie on the opening hole. He quickly gave the shot back on the par 4 second and added bogeys on 4, 5, and 6.
“I didn’t really have the jitters at first,” said Cook. “I made a mental error on 2 with my club selection, choosing the more aggressive club,” he added.
He birdied the 392 yard par 4 8th but gave the shot back with a bogey 5 on the 366 yard par 4 ninth. Cook added two more back nine bogeys before birdieing the par 3, 114 yard 17th hole to finish with a 74.
“I’m going to work on my ball striking tonight and sort it out a little bit,” said Cook. “Me and Blake (Watts) let a lot of people back into the game. Tomorrow will be an interesting dynamic, I’m going to play my game and see what happens.”
New Albany’s Blake Watts, who fired a second round course record 63 at the Dye Course found the going much more difficult on his return to the Ross Course. After opening the tournament with a 75 on the Ross, he added a third round 74 on the Ross. He will look for more Dye Course memories on Thursday and enters the final round 1 shot off the lead.
The third member of the final group appeared to be taking over his position atop the leaderboard until he arrived on the difficult 226 yard, par 3, 13th hole. First round leader Justin Tereshko , who opened the tournament with a 4-under par 66 on the Ross was 1-under par for the day and enjoyed a one shot lead entering the 13th. After his tee shot found the long fescue grass and a five minute search proved fruitless, he was forced to re-tee. His next tee shot again found the fescue. He managed to chip out but took three more shots to complete the hole. His quadruple bogey 7 eliminated him from the lead position.
While the leaders faltered, Stephen Conrad, of Syracuse, Ind., put together a solid even par performance to move into the final pairing for Thursday’s final round. Conrad, the 2005 Indiana Amateur Champion, had matching nines of 35-35 for his 70 total. The 27 year old professional will be looking to improve on his 2011 third place finish in the Indiana Open Championship.
“I played solid today,” said Conrad. “I don’t feel like I made any mistakes. I haven’t played in a tournament since January. I placed third last year and it has always been a goal of mine to win the Open. Who wouldn’t want to win this tournament being a Hoosier?”
Joining Cook and Conrad in the final group will be Ball State Junior Tyler Merkel. Merkel, the 2012 Indiana Amateur Champion, fired a third round 69 to move within one of the lead.
Along with Watts, the next to last grouping will feature Bloomington’s Corey Ziedonis, a member of the Indiana University Golf Team, and 2010 Indiana Open Champion Chase Wright. Ziedonis posted a 1-over par 71 in Wednesday’s round and stands at even par for the tournament. Wright, who turned pro in May following his senior season at Indiana University, will be paired with his former IU teammate.