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Peterson, Svoboda tied for lead at Chiquita Classic

DAVIDSON Peter Malnati earned his 2014 PGA Tour card the hard way, playing qualifying rounds to make tournaments on the PGA Web.com Tour, eventually winning one and finishing in the top 25 in earnings.

Now, Malnati is trying to improve his tour card seeding for next season. The fourth-year pro in a good position to do so after Saturday’s third round in the Chiquita Classic.

Malnati shot a 3-under 69 Saturday and finished among a group of three players one shot behind co-leaders John Peterson and Andrew Svoboda entering Sunday’s final round at River Run Country Club.

Peterson tied for the day’s best round with a 5-under 67, while Svoboda shot 69 to share the lead at 10-under 206 in the second event of the Web.com Tour Finals. Malnati and two others – British pro Greg Owen, the second-round leader, and Troy Matteson (who also shot a 67) – are at 9-under 207.

“This was a great round, I’m very happy with it,” said Malnati, who had five birdies – including four in his first six holes – to offset a pair of bogeys. “I’d rather have a one-shot lead than be one back, definitely … but I feel really good. I’m playing well, and I know I’ll be in position tomorrow to go out there and get after it.”

Malnati, who turned pro in 2009, had been plugging away on the regional professional series such as the Charlotte-based eGolf Tour until this past June when he qualified for, then made the cut and posted top-25 finishes in three straight Web.com Tour events.

Less than two months later, Malnati won his first tournament on the PGA’s developmental tour in Knoxville, Tenn., and finished the regular season 16th in earnings, good for one of 25 full-season PGA Tour cards for 2014.

With an additional 25 cards up for grabs based on earning from the four Web.com Tour Finals events – as well as seeding priority for those who have already earned cards – finishing strong in the final three tournaments is a priority for Malnati.

“It’s a matter of whether I want to get a whole bunch of starts on the PGA Tour, or some lousy starts,” Malnati said. “I’d rather get a whole bunch of starts, and be in the quality fields. These four events are really important, and I’m treating them as such.”

Malnati’s not alone in that approach – in addition to his group at 207, 13 others are within five or fewer shots of Svoboda and Peterson, who said the final four holes at River Run could be the deciding factor in Sunday’s final round.

“It’s always better to have tough holes at the end,” Peterson said. “It shows who’s keeping their nerves in check and is the most calm under the gun. The greatest courses are like that. These are demanding holes, and I like seeing that.”

Kiser: 704-895-3662; Twitter: @Bkiser_CLTObs.
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