Pros battle today in final round of the Pacific Links Bear Mountain Championship
David McKenzie knows Victoria well, having met his wife, Julia Roberge, here on the airport shuttle to downtown back in his Canadian Tour playing days.
What he hasn’t experienced, at least yet, is how to win in the B.C. capital.
The Australian golfer is tied for the lead with Jerry Smith, of Council Bluffs, Iowa, heading into today’s final round of the Pacific Links Bear Mountain Championship, at 12-under 130.
If McKenzie, who earned his way into the event in a three-man playoff for the final spot in a prequalifier on Tuesday, can pull off the championship, he would become the first Tuesday qualifier to claim victory on PGA Tour Champions since Willie Wood turned the difficult trick back in 2012.
“It would be nice. My thoughts at the moment are just keep playing,” McKenzie said.
“I have another qualifier on Tuesday [at the next tour stop at Pebble Beach, California] if I don’t win or finish in the top 10 here. I’ll plan for the worst and hope for the best.”
McKenzie’s second-round 7-under 64 on Saturday tied Americans Lee Janzen and Gary Hallberg for low scores of the day.
“I just scored really well,” McKenzie said. “I don’t think I hit it enormously well, but things just turned out roses today. Some days it doesn’t, but today it did.”
McKenzie played numerous Times Colonist and Victoria Opens back in the day. His last was the 2003 event at Royal Colwood. He also competed at Cordova Bay, Gorge Vale and Uplands, but he never won on that tour.
He eventually competed on the PGA Tour in 2006, where he had two top 10s and, despite limiting his play this season, he qualified for the Senior British Open, in which he finished tied for ninth.
“I’m just trying to stand upright and play golf,” McKenzie said of entering the final round tied for the lead with $270,000 US up for grabs for first place.
“If I play well that’s good. If I play bad, I’m still happy — it’s not the end of the world,” said McKenzie, who lives in Melbourne.
At the other end of the spectrum, Smith is in a familiar position, this being the third time he’ll play in the final group in the past five weeks.
He has yet to win though, having finished second to Jerry Kelly at the Boeing Classic, despite shooting a 64 on Sunday.
Smith also tied for ninth at the Dick’s Sporting Goods Open and ballooned to a 77 at the Insperity Invitational to finish tied for 22nd.
“I’m glad to be where I am. The last group is always good,” Smith said.
“I’ve been there a few times this year. I’ve had one good Sunday and one not so good, so maybe the third time’s the charm.”
Kelly, one of the favourites coming in, is lurking a shot behind Smith and McKenzie after his round of 5-under 66 for a 131 total. The three play in the last group today at 12:20 p.m
Janzen, a two-time U.S. Open winner, is another shot back after his own 64 on Saturday.
Janzen played his way into the picture by recording one eagle, eight birdies and three bogeys.
“That’s too many bogeys. The one thing [Jack] Nicklaus did best was bogey avoidance,” Janzen said. “The good news was I hit it close to the hole a lot and converted, but the bogeys I should have avoided.”
John Daly went the wrong way on Day 2 with an 8-over 79 which included two triple-bogeys, five bogeys and three birdies, playing in front of a huge gallery all day and wearing Maple Leaf pants.
CO-LEADER JERRY SMITH
David McKenzie plays the 17th hole during the Pacific Links Bear Mountain Championship on Saturday.