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Knost has 1-shot lead at Hotel Fitness Championship

The final group of the third round at the Hotel Fitness Championship included Colt Knost, Greg Owen and Sam Saunders, and they were clearly having fun, enjoying the moment and trying to match each other shot for shot Saturday.

Not surprisingly, they are atop the leader board heading into today’s final round at Sycamore Hills Golf Club, in the first of four events within the Tour’s Finals.

Knost, who shot a 5-under 67, is in the lead at 15 under. One stroke behind are Owen, who had a 68, and Saunders, after a 70.

“It was great. I don’t know how many bogeys were made in our group, but there certainly weren’t many,” said Knost, after his birdie-free round (there were three by the group).

“It was a good time out there. We were all talking and having a good time. We know how big the moment is. We’re all trying to get to the PGA Tour. You can’t put any extra pressure on yourself; there’s so much already. You’ve just got to go out there and play.”

The tournament, which in its second year has a $1 million purse, including $180,000 for the champion, includes players in the top 75 on the Tour and Nos. 126 to 200 in the FedEx Cup rankings.

The Tour Finals will decide 25 PGA Tour cards for next season.

Knost, 29, ranked 52nd on the Tour this season with $84,559 in earnings in 19 tournaments. He came into the day two strokes back of the leader, Saunders, who was at 12 under. Knost’s eagle on the par-5 12th – he hit a 5-wood from 222 out and then sank an 11-foot putt – was the highlight of the day.

“I’ve won a couple times out here (on the Tour). It’s been awhile, but I know what it’s like playing in the last group and playing with the lead,” Knost said. “I just need to keep doing what I’m doing and I’ll be there at the end.”

Owen, 42, split this season between the PGA and Tours; he earned $95,117 on the former, $143,631 on the latter.

“I just need to look for the same again, do what I’ve been doing,” he said. “I know that’s a pretty boring thing to say to you (reporters), but that’s the way it’s got to be. It was tough out there today. The front nine was very average for me and I hung around, then made (four) birdies on the back nine.”

Saunders, the grandson of golf legend Arnold Palmer, who got his first professional paycheck at a tournament in Fort Wayne, shot 1-under 35s on both nines. Saunders, 27, was 45th on the Tour this year with $95,341 in earnings, while making the cut in 12 of 18 tournaments.

Despite renovations to Sycamore Hills that were supposed to make it more difficult this year – including alterations to the 18th hole and movement of the bunkers – the top scores may actually be better than last year when Trevor Immelman won at 20 under. The Masters champion is tied for 68th at 1 over, after a 76 on Saturday.

The big mover of the day was John Peterson, who shot a 64, one stroke off the course record at the Jack Nicklaus-designed course. Peterson, who is tied for fourth at 13 under, had a 5-under 31 on the back nine, birdying 4 of 5 holes at one point.

Peterson, 25, played 25 tournaments this season on the PGA Tour, earning $238,230 and ranking 179 in the FedExCup ratings. He came into Saturday tied for 24th at 5 under, seven strokes back of the lead.

“If you ask anybody out here, they’ll tell you I don’t have much patience,” Owen said, “but you’ve got to try to have it out here. There are so many good players and every shot matters. If you fail to choose the right club for 10 minutes … it can cost you in the end and that’s something you have to learn. And I still am learning after 20 years.”