WASHINGTON — Joey Garber has climbed the leaderboard and is squarely in the hunt.
But if the 19-year-old from Petoskey is to win the 94th Michigan Open golf tournament, he may need a little help from the leader.
Garber shot a 5-under par 67 on Wednesday — matching the best round of the day — and was tied for third place heading into the final round of the event on The Orchards Golf Club. The final round is scheduled for today, Thursday.
Garber and everybody else is chasing 24-year-old Hooters Tour player Randy Hutchison of Traverse City, who followed his second-round 65 with a bogey-free 4-under 68 on Wednesday. He stands at 14-under, three shots in front of Matt Thompson of Battle Creek.
Garber posted a 1-over 73 in Monday’s opening round, good for a tie for 44th place. He leapfrogged to a tie for 13th with a 4-under 68 in Tuesday’s second round, and began play in Thursday’s final round tied with Brian Ottenweller of Grand Rapids at 8-under.
Garber and Thompson are teammates on the University of Michigan golf team, and Ottenweller is a former U-M player.
Garber, Thompson and Hutchison were scheduled to tee off in the final grouping at 11:50 a.m. today, Thursday.
For Garber, or anybody else, catching the solid Hutchison could be a tall task. The 2006 Traverse City Central graduate has carded just one bogey and one double-bogey through the first three rounds. His tally includes two eagles and 13 birdies.
Two of those birdies came on the first two holes on Wednesday. He then carded 12 consecutive pars before making back-to-back birdies at No. 15 and No. 16.
“It’s good to birdie the first two holes,” said Hutchison, who played at Michigan State. “It kind of takes the nerves away.”
He said his 12-hole par streak was simply the result of solid golf.
“Hitting fairways and greens and not having any putts and not having any putts over 30 feet,” he said.
Hutchison and Thompson played in the same group on Wednesday, and Thompson drew within a shot of Hutchison with a birdie on the par-5 11th.
“When Matt got to within one stroke of me after his birdie on the 11th, I decided it was time to put my foot on the gas,” said Hutchison, who has twice played in the final group in the Michigan Open — his best finish is third place — but has never slept on the lead.
“I’ll just go out and try to hit fairways and greens (on Thursday),” he said. “You can’t get in too much trouble when you do that.
Garber birdied the opening hole on Wednesday, but immediately gave the shot back with a bogey on the par-3 second. He recovered to eagle No. 3, a 580-yard par 5, then birdied the par-5 sixth to make the turn at 3-under.
He caught fire on the back, making consecutive birdies at Nos. 10, 11 and 12. He added another birdie on the par-5 15th, but bogeyed Nos. 13 and 16, both par 4s.
Garber’s 67 tied Grand Rapids amateur Tom Werkmeister for the low round of the day. Werkmeister stands at 4-under and in a four-way tie for sixth place.
Andrew Ruthkoski of Muskegon is alone in fifth place at 7-under after a 1-over 73 on Wednesday.
Two-time defending champion Ryan Brehm of Mount Pleasant is tied for 20th at 1-under after posting a 4-over 76 on Wednesday, while six-time champion Scott Hebert of Grand Traverse Resort is at 3-over after a 75 on Wednesday.
Barry Redmond of the Boyne Golf Academy shot his second consecutive even-par 72 on Wednesday and is among a group at 4-over, tied for 51st place.
The tournament carries a $70,000 purse with $10,000 going to the winner, provided he is a professional.