Back-to-back eagles and a 63 moved Casey Wittenberg to T38 on Saturday.
Casey Wittenberg finally resurfaced after what seemed like the ultimate disappearing act. Wittenberg, the 2003 U.S. Amateur runner-up who made a splash with a T13 in the Masters that next spring, had back-to-back eagles en route to a 63 Saturday that propelled him into the top 40 (T38). "I've been doing some pretty good things this week but unfortunately things just haven't gone my way,'' said the former Oklahoma State star. "Obviously today I needed a good round and I played solidly, put the ball in the fairway, on the green and made some nice putts.'' Wittenberg, languishing on various mini-tours the past few years (he led the Hooters Tour in earnings this year), holed an 8-iron from 161 yards out on the first hole (his 10th), then reached the par-5 11th in two and made the putt to spark the back-nine charge.
He's somewhat of a mystery man at the final not having arrived the traditional route. Australian Brett Mumford, one of three players exempted to the final by virtue of their standing on the Australasian Tour money list (Jarrod Lyle and Wade Ormsby are the others), is making himself known with some sterling play, including a seven-under 65 Saturday that catapulted him into third place at -19 with 36 holes remaining. Diehard fans might remember Mumford from the 2006 British Open at Hoylake. He finished T16 and a mere footnote (like everything else that week) to Tiger Woods' emotional victory.
Four-time PGA Tour winner Notah Begay III shot a second consecutive 69 to get himself back into it at -5 (T79). The 35-year-old Begay, beset with back problems most of his career, had seven birdies in the round. He disappeared off the radar screen a few years ago and made back page headlines this season when he decided to play on the European Tour.
Perhaps inspired by countryman K.J. Choi's success on the PGA Tour, Koreans Jin Park (67-T8) and Eun Yang (68-T12) solidified their chances of joining him there. Yang's is a continuation of a fine year in which he won the HSBC on the Asian Tour.
Bob May's hot streak continued Saturday with a 67 to move into the top 15. He shot 68 on Friday.
Former tour caddie Nicholas Malinowski shot a nice 65 to give himself an outside shot. Malinowski, two-under for the week, caddied on the big tour in 2004. He's making a third consecutive appearance in the final.
The freefall continues for Ted Purdy, who stumbled to a 75 on Saturday and slipped to -2 (T106) for the tournament. Purdy was the bubble boy going into the season-ending Children's Miracle Network Classic at Disney. He made four straight cuts heading into the tournament but failed to make weekend play there and wound up 127th on the money list. He'll have conditional status on the big tour next season, which translates into 15-20 starts.
Former PGA Tour winner Chris Riley lost ground Saturday, too. He also shot a 75 and is even par (T130) with 36 to play. Barring a miracle, his exempt status will be limited to another stint on the Nationwide Tour.
Veteran Steve Pate slipped to near-bottom with a 76 that left him five-over (T155). The former Ryder Cupper and six-time winner on the PGA Tour played in 15 Nationwide Tour events this season, finishing 163rd on the money list.
Mike Wendling, one of six players who earned a spot in the final the hard way (pre-qualifying and two other stages), played his first three holes Saturday four over and never recovered en route to a 78 that pretty much ended his hopes of a tour card. Wendling (T130) started the round in good position at -6.