McKenzie extends Knoxville lead despite early headache

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David McKenzie is hoping to capture his second title on the Nationwide Tour.
June 13, 2009
Joe Chemycz, PGA TOUR Staff

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- David McKenzie admitted being light-headed and dizzy to begin the third round of the Nationwide Tour's Knoxville Open. A 5-under 67, though, put the Australian three shots in front of his closest pursuer and gave the rest of the field a headache heading into Sunday's final round at Fox Den Country Club.


McKenzie's personal best 19-under 197 total has left much of the field worrying about second place in the $525,000 event. Kevin Johnson, winner of The Rex Hospital Open two weeks ago, fired a 4-under 68 to reach 16-under and is the only player within shouting distance.

Alex Aragon (69) and Craig Bowden (67) are next at 13-under, six back of McKenzie, who is seeking his second career title.

"It doesn't matter," said the 41-year old leader. "I still have to go out and shoot a good score tomorrow."

McKenzie two-putted the opening par-5 for birdie but then missed four makeable putts on the next four holes, three of them from less than six feet.

"I struggled with the putter to get the right pace all day," he said. "It was nice to shoot the score I did. I probably hit it better today than the other days, I just couldn't make the putts. I was hitting it nicely and had a lot of chances for birdie. I was just happy to be making pars. Feeling the way I was, I was happy to make pars. I knew if I kept hitting it close, eventually I'd make a couple."

McKenzie's headache started to dissipate as he reached the seventh hole, thank to some aspirin. From there on, he hit 10 of the last 11 greens in regulation and canned a trio of birdie putts from inside 10 feet to distance himself from the field.

"With the course conditions like this, the course plays relatively benign," he said. "Unless you play really poorly you're not going to shoot a lot over par or you'll shoot around par. It just makes it easier the shots you are in front."

Johnson not only has the best shot to overtake the leader but maybe the only realistic one among the field.

"I'm glad I've got a chance to at least see him," said Johnson. "At least I've got a chance to see what's going on out there tomorrow. David's playing great and we just hope we have a chance."

Johnson's play has been solid, if not great this season. The 42-year old Massachusetts native has seen his game come together this year, thanks in part to a new coach and a relaxed attitude.

"Last year beat me up. Play two days, miss the cut," he said of 2008 when he made only three cuts in 22 starts. "It knocked my confidence down. I got to go home a lot more but I'm having a lot more fun this year."

Johnson's swing has come together and the results are evident. He has five consecutive top-20 finishes and has climbed to No. 3 on the money list, matching the highest ranking in a career that started in 1990.

"I've been trying to be a little more patient this year," he said. "I know if I don't press too hard I'm probably going to have a good chance to make some birdies. I've gone on long periods of not playing well. This year I've been a little more consistently on the good side. I'd like to get streaky tomorrow and run a bunch of 'em."

Third-Round Notes:

• Lift, clean and place conditions were in effect for Rounds 1 and 2 but not for Round 3.

Front 9 Back 9 Total
Round 1 34.910 35.645 70.555
Round 2 35.085 34.941 70.026
Round 3 35.048 35.399 70.404

• Scoring averages for the week:

• Sunday's expected finish time is 5 p.m. ET.