Nelson and Woodall Share 54-Hole Lead at Seventh Annual River Hills Classic


Ryan Nelson

By Stewart Moore

Lake Wylie, S.C. – At the River Hills Classic, Ryan Nelson of Charleston, S.C. and Bruce Woodall of Yanceyville, N.C. sit tied for the 54-hole lead at 11-under 205 with Saturday’s fourth and final round on tap at the seventh annual event.

Nelson, the tour’s leading money winner in 2014, opened the day as the tournament’s 36-hole leader at 12-under par following rounds of 66-66—132 at host River Hills Country Club.

The 37-year-old bogeyed the par-3 third early in his round, but moved back into red numbers with birdies on Nos. 6 and 10 to ascend to 13-under for the week – at the time two shots clear of the field.

On the par-4 14th, Nelson flew the green with his second shot, flubbed his third shot, then missed a 4-footer for bogey after finally willing the ball onto the green.

“I just hit it terribly today, but that was the low point,” he said. “It just wasn’t my best effort from start to finish.”

Bruce WoodallBruce Woodall

After the late-round hiccup, Nelson parred his final four holes to wrap up a disappointing 73, but one that kept him tied atop the leaderboard with Woodall entering Saturday’s fourth and final round.

The married father of two has enjoyed vast success on tour, winning six times since the 2011 season, and amassing over $112,000 in earnings in 2014 alone to claim his first career money title.

This season, Nelson is winless, but owns an impressive 10 top-25s in 11 starts, including three top-5 finishes. <

“I’ve played okay this season, but I’ve made too many mistakes for a player with my experience,” he said. “I would love to get another win out here, but I also know that I have a lot of golf left to go, so I’m not thinking about that too much.”

Nelson’s past experience at River Hills will be beneficial, as a runner-up finish at last year’s event helped lead into the aforementioned money title.

“I like the course. I didn’t like it for a while, though,” said Nelson. “But, you have to hit certain spots and certain areas of greens, so you have to think your way around. It’s a good test.”

Woodall, who played in the day’s penultimate threesome in front of Nelson, began his round with a flurry of red numbers, birdieing 2, 4, 6, 10, 11 and 12 to race out to a 6-under-par start on the day and a 13-under tally for the week – matching Nelson atop the leaderboard.

From there, the former University of Virginia standout struggled, finishing bogey-bogey-birdie-bogey over his closing four holes – with the last bogey falling courtesy of a tee shot out-of-bounds on 18 – to post a 4-under 68, matching Nelson in the clubhouse at 11-under par.

The 26-year-old Florida resident burst onto the mini-tour scene in 2013, winning three times, with his third and final title coming at the River Hills Classic – where a 5-under 283 total gave way to a two-shot win.

Woodall spent the majority of his summer on PGA TOUR Canada, where he has made just one cut in five starts.

Chris Gallagher of Charlotte, N.C. is in solo-third place at 10-under 206, one shot back of the co-leaders.

Gallagher, who played in the day’s final threesome alongside Nelson and Kevin McLister of Charlotte, N.C., held the outright lead at 12-under par before closing bogeys on 17 and 18 dropped him one shot back heading into Saturday’s final round.

/p> Chris GallagherChris Gallagher

The 33-year-old double-bogeyed the ninth hole on day three, but rallied mid-round with birdies on 10, 11 and 13 to put his name back in the mix. The late bogeys left him with a third-round 73, but in the final threesome for a second straight day alongside Nelson and Woodall.

The longtime tour member was the 54-hole leader at last year’s River Hills Classic, closing with 76 to finish nine shots back of Tracy.

Gallagher entered the week with three made cuts in eight starts this year, posting a season-best T15 at the Willow Creek Open in May.

Scott Lamb of Bradenton, Fla., Paul Apyan of Cleveland, Tenn. and Christian Brand of Charleston, W.V. are tied for fourth at 7-under 207.

The final round of the River Hills Classic will begin at 8:00 AM on Saturday morning, with players competing in threesomes off of Nos. 1 and 10 tees. The tournament is open to the public and free of charge.