GREER, S.C. (Korn Ferry Tour) – Justin Lower continued his strong play at the BMW Charity Pro-Am presented by SYNNEX Corporation to maintain his 36-hole lead through the third round at 23-under. Lower leads Mito Pereira by three strokes entering the final round at the Thornblade Club.
Lower will seek to hold off Pereira – a two-time winner this season – on Sunday as the latter chases his third victory and an immediate promotion to the PGA TOUR. Meanwhile Lower is seeking his first career Korn Ferry Tour victory and a leap inside the top-20 in the Korn Ferry Tour points standings.
“It feels like I’m coming into my own,” said Lower. “I know I’ve played over 100 events out here. I’ve been out here a while. I really don’t know how to explain it. My game has felt good all year. I thought this year could be a good year. It didn’t start off the way I wanted it to start. But I’ve been working hard the last month or so and results are starting to show.”
Entering the day with 18 birdies through 36 holes, Lower added to his tournament-leading total with a streak of five consecutive down the stretch on Saturday (Nos. 12-16). He bogeyed the third hole but rebounded with an eagle at the fifth and a birdie at the ninth before going on his back-nine run.
“I just kept getting good numbers and I was able to swing confidently at flags,” said Lower of his birdie streak. “Even on the par-5s, I was getting good numbers with longer clubs. The shot I had in on 15 was perfect.”
At 24 birdies through 54 holes, Lower is two birdies shy of the top 2020-2021 mark (26 by Chad Ramey at the REX Hospital Open) and seven shy of the all-time Korn Ferry Tour record through 72 holes (31).
With his Saturday 64, Lower has now collected seven straight rounds in the 60s, including rounds of 64-63-64 this week. The 32-year-old entered the week 37th in the standings and is looking to finish the regular season inside the top-25 and earn his first PGA TOUR card. Lower claimed the only 54-hole solo-lead of his career at the 2019 Chitimacha Louisiana Open presented by MISTRAS but went on to fall in a playoff to Vince Covello.
“I played well that day,” reflected Lower on his final round in Louisiana in 2019. “I didn’t really finish it. My goal tomorrow is to finish it off. I know it’s going to be hard. Guys are going to be gunning for me. The weather is supposed to be nice. Scores will be low. I just have to finish the race.”
In 2018, Lower experienced heartbreak at the final event of the season, the Korn Ferry Tour Championship presented by United Leasing & Finance. He was hovering around The Finals 25 bubble coming down the stretch before facing an eight-foot birdie putt at the 72nd hole. A birdie would have earned him his first PGA TOUR card but Lower missed on the low side and finished 26th, missing out on TOUR membership by one slot.
Pereira will look to become the second player in a row to earn back-to-back wins after Cameron Young accomplished the feat two weeks ago. Prior to Young, a player had not gone back-to-back on the Korn Ferry Tour since 2013 (Michael Putnam).
Elsewhere in the tournament, the team of professional Evan Harmeling and former MLB All-Star pitcher David Wells (-26) won the low-handicap celebrity division (termed the X6 division) in walk-off fashion as Wells aced his final hole of the tournament (the par-3 ninth). The pairing of world champion boxer Canelo Alvarez and professional Matt Picanso (-29) won the high-handicap celebrity division (X7 Division) in a scorecard playoff.
The final round will run from 8:35 a.m. through 2:45 p.m. off of the first tee at the Thornblade Club.
- Saturday’s weather: Mostly sunny in the morning with scattered showers in the afternoon with a high of 86 degrees and wind N/NE at 5-14 mph
- The professional cut was made with the conclusion of the second round on Saturday morning with 76 professionals advancing to the final two rounds at 6-under
- The BMW Charity Pro-Am presented by SYNNEX Corporation is the 13th event of 2021 and the 36th (of 43) of the 2020-21 combined season; Lower projects to move to 17th in the Korn Ferry Tour points standings with a victory; 20 of 35 third-round leaders/co-leaders have gone on to win this season including five of the last six
- After making 18 birdies over his first two rounds, Justin Lower carded six more in the third round; the all-time Korn Ferry Tour record of 31 birdies in a tournament has been reached four times, most recently by Steve Wheatcroft at the 2011 Melwood Prince George’s County Open Presented by Under Armour
- Mito Pereira has now had nine consecutive rounds of 68 or better, dating back two tournaments (68-67-62-67-67-67-65-63-66)
- Jonathan Hodge (-17, T4) is seeking his first top-10 on the Korn Ferry Tour since the 2018 North Mississippi Classic (T7)
- Lee Hodges (-10, T10) needs 12 points to pass the 1,700-point threshold the Korn Ferry Tour is currently using as its fail-safe mark to secure a spot in The 25 and earn his PGA TOUR card; 12 points is the equivalent of a finish of 44th or better
- This week’s purse is $700,000 with $126,000 going to the champion; the champion will also receive 500 Korn Ferry Tour points
- The combined 2020-21 Korn Ferry Tour schedule will conclude with 25 PGA TOUR cards awarded in August at the 2021 Pinnacle Bank Championship presented by Aetna, with an additional 25 cards awarded at the conclusion of the 2021 Korn Ferry Tour Finals
Third-Round Course Statistics (Thornblade Club)
- Toughest Hole – Par-4 18th (4.250)
- Easiest Hole – Par-5 fifth (4.289)
- Scoring Average (Front 9) – 33.658
- Scoring Average (Back 9) – 34.947
- Scoring Average (Total) – 68.605
- Scoring Average (Cumulative) – 68.991