Australia's Mathew Goggin fired a 5-under 66 Saturday and made a strong move toward his second victory of the 2011 Nationwide Tour season at the Preferred Health Systems Wichita Open. Goggin's 54-hole total of 16-under 197 is one stroke better than Kyle Thompson (67), last week's winner at the Rex Hospital Open, and Troy Kelly (67), who tied for second last week in Raleigh and also the runner-up at the Stadion Classic at UGA in early May.
Goggin, the leading money-winner on the 2011 Nationwide Tour, won the season-opening Panama Claro Championship, coming from four strokes back on Sunday to win by two. After making birdie at the par-5 second hole Saturday, he grabbed sole possession of the lead by making birdie on the difficult par-4 sixth hole for a third straight time. Goggin then added to his lead with another birdie at the par-4 seventh, holing a bunker shot from 25 yards.
Should Goggin go on to win in Wichita, he would become the first player to claim multiple victories on the Nationwide Tour since Hunter Haas won both the Price Cutter Charity Championship and the Albertson's Boise Open last summer.
"It's Saturday, so it doesn't really matter, but I'm in great position going into tomorrow. I played really well and gave myself lots of chances. It was another solid day," Goggin said after his round. "If I want to win, I'll need to go and shoot 5- or 6-under tomorrow because the guys are going low here."
Prior to his appearance in Wichita this year, Goggin last played in this event in 2005 and he tied for third, thanks to a final-round 65 at Crestview Country Club. He was tied for 11th entering the final round, four strokes off the lead.
Thompson, however, is also poised for a second consecutive victory on the Nationwide Tour. He birdied the last two holes, including a comeback 15-footer at the par-5 18th hole after running his eagle putt from the front fringe way past the hole. The last time a player on the Nationwide Tour won back-to-back events was Jason Gore in 2005 at the National Mining Association Pete Dye Classic and Scholarship America Showdown.
"There's times when you play this game that it comes easy and there's times when it is the hardest sport ever invented. Luckily right now, it's coming easy for me, Thompson said. "I'll have to keep my head down tomorrow and keep grinding and make every shot count."
Kelly, currently No. 2 on this year's Nationwide Tour money list, also will have a good chance to become the circuit's 10th different winner. The University of Washington product made a nine-foot birdie putt at No. 15, but missed a golden opportunity to tie Goggin for the 54-hole lead when he missed a seven-foot birdie putt at the 18th hole.
"I'll try to just keep doing what I've been doing. I think you'll have to shoot a good score tomorrow to win," Kelly said. "The greens are receptive if you hit it in the fairway and I think there's a low score out there. Leading is great but one shot back is a good spot too."
Scott Brown (66), also a runner-up last week at the Rex Hospital Open, is within striking distance of the leaders. Brown is in fourth place, but only trails by three strokes thanks to birdies at both the 14th and 15th holes and an eagle at the 18th, the last of six on the day at that hole.
--Mathew Goggin has been a 54-hole leader/co-leader on two other occasions on the Nationwide Tour and he went on to win both times in 1999. Goggin led the Lehigh Valley Open and was tied for the lead at the Omaha Classic. On the PGA TOUR, he was the solo leader after three rounds in 2008 the Memorial Tournament and tied for second.
--Third-round leader/co-leaders have gone on to win this event six times in the 18 years the event went 72 holes. The last to do so was Scott Piercy in 2008. 54-hole leaders/co-leaders have won four times twice in the previous eight tournaments on the 2011 Nationwide Tour.
--PGA Professional Tim Fleming, the Player of the Year in the South Central PGA Section, is making the most of his sponsor exemption this week. Fleming, a club professional at Oklahoma City Golf & CC, is solo seventh through 54 holes of this event. Strangely, Fleming is even par on the front nine and a cumulative 11 under on the back nine. A top-25 finish this week would normally earn Fleming a spot in next week's Nationwide Tour event in Mexico, however, he is opting instead to get ready for the PGA Professional National Championship at Hershey Country Club in Hershey, Pa., at the end of this month.
--Paul Claxton and Gary Christian both extended their streaks of par/better rounds to 15 consecutive, the best runs of the year on the Nationwide Tour. Christian birdied five of his last eight holes for a 68 while Claxton shot 67 after making birdie on his last two holes.
--The par-4 seventh was the most-difficult hole at Crestview Saturday. The stroke average Saturday was 4.281 and the four birdies made there came from Brock Mackenzie, Brent Long, Paul Claxton and Mathew Goggin.
--Australia's Jake Younan-Wise made six birdies and an eagle, and his bogey-free, 8-under 63 was not only a Nationwide Tour career-best, but also the low round of the tournament. Younan-Wise's round vaulted him up 48 spots in the standings into a tie for eighth. He was tied for 126st after a 74 in the opening round.
--Scott Gardiner's six consecutive birdies (Nos. 9-14) tied the 2011 Nationwide Tour's best birdie streak. Last week at the Rex Hospital Open, Brian Stuard made six birdies in a row during Round 2 at TPC Wakefield Plantation.