Back-to-back 65s give McKenzie one-shot lead

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David McKenzie has 14 birdies through 36 holes at Fox Den.
June 12, 2009
Joe Chemycz, PGA TOUR Staff

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- David McKenzie posted his second straight 7-under 65 Friday to take the 36-hole lead at the Knoxville Open, the 12th stop on the 2009 Nationwide Tour schedule. The 41-year-old Australian stands at 14-under 130 after two trips around the Fox Den Country Club, one stroke better than Dustin Risdon (64).

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LIVE@ ace
Justin Smith arrived at the 16th hole on Friday as the final player during the Nationwide Tour's first LIVE@ coverage -- and he needed a birdie-birdie-birdie finish to get to five under and make the cut. He promptly aced the 16th hole, parred the 17th and birdied the 18th to make the cut on the number.
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Smith's scorecard
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England's Gary Christian (65), Tommy Tolles (65) and Kevin Johnson (65) are at 12-under and share third place in the $525,000 event. Tjaart van der Walt (68) and first-round leader Blake Adams (70) are next at 11-under. Adams matched the course record with a 9-under 63 in the opening round, which finished up Friday morning because of a three-hour rain delay on Thursday afternoon.

A total of 63 players made the 36-hole cut, which came at a tournament-record 5-under 139. The cut is also the lowest on Tour this year by two strokes.

"I just hope Groundhog Day continues for the next two days," said McKenzie after his 65-65 start. "I've played like a dog all year so all of a sudden to be in the lead is a nice change. I've been getting closer but it's nothing I'd been expecting."

McKenzie has made five cuts in his previous eight starts this year but a T13 in New Zealand back in March is his best showing thus far.

"I keep talking with my coach and asking 'what's wrong with me?' and he says 'there's nothing wrong with you, just go and play,'" said McKenzie. "That's how I've been trying to play, not getting in my way too much. The last two days I haven't been getting in my way and hopefully it will be the same the next two."

McKenzie was keeping pace with the field Friday morning and was 4-under through 12 holes when a good day suddenly turned for the better. The Raleigh, N.C., resident chipped in for birdie at the par-4, 4th hole (his 13th) and then holed a pitching wedge from 89 yards for eagle on the par-5, 5th. He went from 11-under to 14-under in the blink of an eye.

"You just get lucky," he said. "It's much easier when you get to pick the ball up because you never get mud balls, the ball doesn't slide and you can always get the right distance."

McKenzie's solid play the first two days has been more the result of his outstanding efforts on the greens.

"When you start to make a few putts you're not standing over shots and trying to hit it to three feet," he said. "You know you can make a putt from 15 feet, you know you're going to make a putt from six feet. It may not be every time but you're not stressing your game as you go further up the fairway."

Risdon matched the best round of the day with an 8-under 64 that included an eagle and three birdies on the par-3s. The 27-year old from Calgary was a perfect 18-for-18 in greens in regulation for the opening round but had 32 total putts and posted a 4-under 68. Risdon birdied the final hole Friday afternoon, bringing his total to just 26 for the round.

Johnson, winner of The Rex Hospital Open in Raleigh two weeks ago, opened his day with five consecutive birdies before closing with a three-putt bogey on the final which dropped him out of a share of second place.

"There wasn't much bad today. I had a bunch of chances today," said Johnson, who was upbeat despite the closing hiccup. "I want to say that the day could have been much better but I also made some putts. If they're going in, they're going in. As long as you don't think about it, you're bound to make a few more."

Second-Round Notes:

• Lift, clean and place conditions were in effect for Round 2.

Kevin Johnson birdied the first five holes of Round 2 (Nos. 10-14).

Phil Tataurangi had two eagles today -- Nos. 1 and 10.

Justin Smith had a hole-in-one at the 190-yard, 16th hole. Smith used a 6-iron for his ace.

Blake Adams' 9-under 63 in the first round tied the Fox Den Country Club record.

Jin Park withdrew after the opening round.

Rich Barcelo withdrew during the second round.

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