RALEIGH, N.C. -- A 2-under-par 69 was all Kyle Thompson needed Saturday to increase his lead at the Rex Hospital Open, the 13th Nationwide Tour tournament of the season.
|INSIDE THE NUMBERS|
|KYLE THOMPSON THRU 54 HOLES|
"To increase my lead after shooting 2 under, I'm pretty fortunate," said Thompson, a 28-year-old native of Panama City, Fla. "I'm really surprised nobody made a push from behind."
Thompson posted his third consecutive sub-70 round, following up a 64-65 start the first two days with a 69 on Saturday.
"I shot a different score, but I hit the ball as well today as I did the last two days," said Thompson, who hit 10 of 14 fairways and 14 of 18 greens in regulation. "I hit it great. The only difference was the putts didn't go in."
This is the sixth time in Thompson's career he has held the lead heading into the final round, but the winner's circle has proven elusive. Most recently, he carried the 54-hole lead to a tie for third-place finish at the 2006 Scholarship America Showdown. He has four runner-up finishes on his resume.
"I've had so many close calls that it's been frustrating," said Thompson. "It just feels good to be playing good golf again. I'm looking forward to the final round. I'm going to attack the pins and make birdies. My game plan will not change at all. It is like playing chess ... just make one move at a time and not get ahead of yourself."
Burns played in the same group as Thompson, but wasn't getting much accomplished as he stood at 2 over on the day through 16 holes. He closed the gap to four shots, however, when he posted a birdie-eagle finish.
"I just tried to hang in there and have something good happen and it finally did on the last two holes," said Burns. "That is inspiring heading into the final round."
McKenzie made the biggest move of the day with a 7-under 64, jumping 48 spots from a tie for 51st place at the beginning of the day. The Aussie made the cut on the number at 2 under, but a red-hot putter was the difference in McKenzie's round on Saturday compared to matching 1-under 70s in his opening two rounds.
"I had a couple of one putts that I haven't had the last couple of days," said McKenzie. "That is as simplistic as I can make it. The putter didn't necessarily feel better today, they just went in. But I'm not surprised with anything with the putter. I've three-putted from four feet and I've holed long ones."
The 39-year-old native of Melbourne, Australia, made seven birdies on the day, totaling 146 feet in length (20.86 feet average). A 60-foot birdie putt on the par-4 17th hole highlighted the round -- but not his week. On Thursday, he drained a 90-footer on the par-3 third hole.
"I haven't felt good with the putter in quite awhile," said McKenzie. "It has been so long since I've seen putts go in. It was nice to see them go in today. But you hold your breath to see if they'll keep going in."
Third-Round News & Notes: Kyle Thompson's four-shot lead after 54 holes equals the largest on the Nationwide Tour since Greg Kraft led by seven following 54 holes at the 2005 Northeast Pennsylvania Classic. It matches Omar Uresti's four-shot lead earlier this year at the Livermore Valley Wine Country Championship. ... The previous largest 54-hole lead at the Rex Hospital Open was three strokes, held on four occasions and most recently by Brendan Jones in 2004. ... The third-round leader has gone on to win six of 12 times on the Nationwide Tour this season. ... The 54-hole leader at the Rex Hospital Open has prevailed the same number of times, most recently Brenden Pappas in 2006. ... David McKenzie (64) managed the only bogey-free round on Saturday, bringing the total for the week to 25. McKenzie is now bogey-free for his last 38 holes. ... Sunday's winner will take home $81,000 out of the $450,000 purse.
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