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Ryan Ruffels (65) on verge of 1st Korn Ferry Tour win in Omaha


Ryan Ruffels is close to cashing in for the first time as a pro.

The 22-year-old Australian arrived in Omaha, Nebraska, sitting No. 54 in Korn Ferry Tour points as a rookie. Now, he’ll enter Sunday’s final round of the Pinnacle Bank Championship leading by two shots over fellow KFT newcomer Stephen Franken.

While four of the seven KFT winners since the tour’s return posted winning scores of 20 under or better, this week’s event has been anything but a birdie-fest so far. Ruffels took advantage of the limited opportunities on Saturday, firing a bogey-free, 6-under 65 on a tough Indian Creek layout to move to 12 under. He went out in 4-under 31 before making eight pars and a birdie on the back side.

Ruffels was a can’t-miss teenager when he decided to skip college and turn pro in 2016. However, after using up his seven PGA Tour exemptions and notching just one top-20, Ruffels headed to Latin America, where he played the majority of his time before earning his KFT card via Q-School last winter. He owns five career runner-up finishes on PGA Tour Latinoamerica and one on the Mackenzie Tour, but he has yet to break through in a world-ranked event.

A victory Sunday is projected to move Ruffels inside the top 10 in points.

“It’s going to be fun,” Ruffels said. “It’ll be a great challenge and I’m really looking forward to it. It’s what we play for. I’m really excited to see what I can do under the pump.”

Franken, who graduated from North Carolina State last year, made an eagle and two birdies in his final four holes to shoot a third-round 66. Journeyman Michael Miller is tied for third at 9 under with former USC standout Rico Hoey and Wake Forest product Cameron Young.