Defending champion Kevin Kisner gave four shots back to par on the back nine Saturday and fell into a three-way tie for the 54-hole at the Nationwide Tour’s Mylan Classic in suburban Pittsburgh. Kisner’s even-par 71 at the Southpointe Golf Club left him right where he began the day, at 13 under par.
Californian John Mallinger birdied two of his final three holes for a 4-under 67 and a share of the third-round lead along with England’s Gary Christian, who rallied with four consecutive back-nine birdies for a 2-under 69.
Former Navy Lt. Billy Hurley is in fourth place after a 2-under 69 put him at 12-under 201. Andrew Svoboda is two shots back and tied for fifth place after a 2-under 69 that featured eight birdies. Georgia’s Scott Brown (70) is also at 11-under 202.
Saturday’s third round produced a scoring average of 70.761 and featured several stumbles, or ‘sticky patches,’ according to Christian, from the leaders.
Kisner, looking to become the first to successfully defend a title in the Nationwide Tour’s 22-year history, opened the day with a two-shot advantage but gave that back with a double bogey at the par-3 third hole.
“I was shocked when I was 2 over early and I wasn’t getting lapped,” he said. “Nobody went really low.”
The former Georgia All-America turned things around with five birdies in a seven-hole stretch that pushed him to 16 under par through 11 holes and four in front of his nearest challenger.
“It was frustrating because I had a chance to run away from the field there for a minute,” he said. “My tee shot on 14 (par 5) rolled two inches in the rough and I had to lay up where you should be making birdie. I play the next three holes in 4 over par. That’s a five-shot swing right there.”
Kisner’s bogey-bogey-double bogey patch was the result of his difficulties around the greens.
“It felt like I was chipping like a 30-handicapper there for a while,” he said. “I just didn’t have very good touch today. It’s a guessing game on how the ball comes out. You’re short-sided and you know you have only about eight feet of green to work with and your ball is sitting down in four-inch rough. You’re trying to guess if it’s going to come out hot or if it’s going to come out dead.”
Kisner guessed wrong on several holes and saw his lead disappear. A birdie at No. 17 gave him a share of the lead with Mallinger, who jump-started his round with a five-foot eagle putt at the par-5 11th.
“I was trying to be patient because I knew you can make birdies on the back nine,” he said. “There are a lot of birdies out here but you still have to make the putts.”
Mallinger made some good ones down the stretch, and he knew he needed them.
“I looked at the leaderboard on 16 and saw that Kevin was 16 or 17 under,” he said. “I knew I had to get a little more aggressive to stay in the golf tournament.”
Mallinger rolled in a 25-foot birdie putt at No. 16 and then a 12-footer at the 18th to post the first 13-under score.
The final duo of Kisner and Christian joined him a short time later.
Christian, an Auburn grad who has settled his family in Birmingham, Ala., had his own problems during the day. Specifically, three consecutive bogeys midway through the front nine that left him six shots back of Kisner, his playing partner.
“You just have to gather yourself once you have that sticky patch,” he said. “It was good to get that out of the way and hopefully that’s it for the week. I knew he was killing me and I knew I was way behind. The good thing is that when you’re confident in your ability to reel off three or four in a row, then suddenly you’re back into it as soon as he cools down for a little bit.”
The timing worked out well for Christian, who was error-free for his final 12 holes.
--Due to possible weather issues, Sunday’s final-round play will be in threesomes off the first and 10th tees. Tee times will run from 8:00-10:00 a.m. with an expected finish time of 3:00 p.m.
--John Daly withdrew during the third round due to injury (hamstring).
--Will MacKenzie had a pair of eagles in Round 3 on par-5 holes (Nos. 11, 13).
--South Africa’s Dawie van der Walt posted the day’s best score with a 6-under-par 65. In contrast, there were eight players who posted scores lower than 65 in the second round and five more who shot scores of 65.
--Kevin Kisner will be attempting to do something no player has ever done in the 22-year history of the Nationwide Tour – repeat as champion. Several players have come close to successfully defending a title, but none have managed to repeat.