Canterbury Golf Club is living up to its legacy as one of America's toughest but most fair tests. (Martin/Getty Images)
Saturday Notebook: Allen bids to win in his senior debut
Michael Allen has a chance to join a very select club. Plus, Jeff Sluman is back in the final pairing, Mark O'Meara gets better every day, Gil Morgan could make the record books, and more.
By Craig Dolch, Dave Senko and The PGA of America Media Staff
BEACHWOOD, Ohio -- Champions Tour rookie Michael Allen holds a one-stroke advantage over Jeff Sluman and Tom Kite after three rounds and a two-stroke margin over Larry Mize, Tim Simpson and Gil Morgan heading into Sunday’s final round. Allen has a 54-hole total of 3-under-par 207.
Allen is bidding to become the 14th player to win his Champions Tour debut as well as the 23rd player to win the Senior PGA Championship on his first attempt. Two of the previous four winners of this event also won on their first try, including Mike Reid in 2005 and Denis Watson in 2007. Like Allen, Larry Mize is playing in his first Senior PGA Championship.
WHAT'S ON THE LINE: A win by Allen would earn him fully exempt status on the Champions Tour for one calendar year as well as a check for $360,000, 720 Charles Schwab Cup points and a five-year exemption into the Mitsubishi Electric Championship at Hualalai, the Champions Tour's season-opening event in Hawaii. Allen is currently an exempt player on the PGA Tour by virtue of his finish in the top 125 in 2008.
Allen's third-round 3-under-par 67 marked the second straight day he had posted the day's low round. He shot a 4-under-par 66 on Friday on the 6,895-yard layout.
THANKS, MIKE: Allen credits PGA Professional Mike Mitchell of Mission Hills Country Club in Rancho Mirage, Calif., with helping him refine his swing and attitude.
"He's just helped change my game," Allen said. "He is more driven than any man I have ever met. He's got such passion and it's just carried over. I am not fighting to find my swing every single day and that has made the game more fun."
STOCKTON'S STOCK IS HOLDING: Dave Stockton, 67, winner of the 1996 U.S. Senior Open at Canterbury, kept up his consistent play Saturday, posting a 72 and tying for 30th overall at 5-over-par 215.
THREE MAJOR AMIGOS: Three major champions -- Larry Mize (1987 Masters), Jeff Sluman (1988 PGA Championship) and Tom Kite (1992 U.S. Open) -- will be in the final two threesomes Sunday. Mize will be in the next-to-last group at 9:55 a.m., while Kite and Sluman will be paired together with third-round leader Michael Allen at 10:05 a.m.
PACE SETTERS: Hal Sutton, the 1983 PGA Champion and 2004 U.S. Ryder Cup Captain, and 1993 Senior PGA Champion Tom Wargo, were the first group out Saturday. The only twosome in the third round, they played their round in a brisk 3 hours and 37 minutes. Sutton shot 70--217 while Wargo had 72--219.
FINAL PAIRING: This is the second consecutive year that Jeff Sluman has appeared in the final pairing in the final round of the Senior PGA Championship. Last year, in his Senior PGA Championship debut in his hometown of Rochester, N.Y., Sluman came up short against eventual Champion Jay Haas and runner-up Bernhard Langer, finishing in a tie for ninth place.
"It would be great to have my name on that fantastic trophy," Sluman said of the Alfred S. Bourne Trophy that goes to the Senior PGA Champion. Sluman already has his name inscribed on the Wanamaker Trophy for winning the 1988 PGA Championship.
FAST START: PGA Club Professional James Mason birdied the first three holes Saturday to get to even par. But he stumbled with four bogeys the rest of the way and finished with 71--214. He is tied for 22nd place.
BETTER EACH DAY: Mark O'Meara, who won the 1979 U.S. Amateur at Canterbury, continued to make progress Saturday. He shot 69, and at 5 over par is tied for 30th place heading to the final round.
MORE EAGLES: In addition to the hole-in-one by Roger Chapman at the par-3 17th hole, Larry Mize and Mike Goodes each made eagle-3 at No. 15. All five of the eagle-3s in the Championship have come at the 549-yard, par-5 hole.
GOING FOR THE DOUBLE: Jeff Sluman (currently T2) could become the 12th player to win both the PGA Championship (1988) as well as a Senior PGA Championship. The last to accomplish that feat was Raymond Floyd, the 1995 winner of this event, and a two-time PGA Championship winner (1969, 1982). Sluman could join an impressive roster of players who have done so. Among those in the group are Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player, Lee Trevino, Sam Snead and Gene Sarazen.
SLIM CHANCE: Jay Haas birdied his first two holes this week, but then has spent the rest of the week chasing the leaders in his defense of the Senior PGA Championship.
Rounds of 71 and 74 had him nine shots entering Saturday’s third round, but a 2-under 68 gave him an outside shot of winning his third Senior PGA in the last four years. Haas is six shots behind.
"Obviously, I gave myself an opportunity here, but it's going to have to be pretty low," Haas said. "There's a lot of guys between me and the leaders. But there's maybe a 64 or 65 out here. I'm going to have to play pretty perfectly to do that."
THE GOOD DOCTOR: Should Gil Morgan (currently T4) prevail on Sunday, he would become the oldest winner of this event at 62 years, 7 months and 29 days, breaking Jock Hutchinson’s record as the oldest winner. Hutchinson was 62 years, 7 months and 5 days when he won the 1947 Senior PGA Championship. Morgan would also become the third oldest Champions Tour winner ever behind Mike Fetchick (63 years to the day) and Gary Player (62 years, 9 months 22 days).
PILING UP THE POINTS: Double points in the season-long Charles Schwab Cup race will be awarded to all top-10 finishers this week, with the winner receiving 720 points. Bernhard Langer (currently T10) leads the 2009 points race with 922 points followed by Loren Roberts (T30) with 572 points. Keith Fergus (T22) is third with 570 points followed by Joey Sindelar (T7) with 489 points and Andy Bean (T50) with 465.
ACE IN THE PLACE: Roger Chapman of England enjoyed every golfer's dream Saturday, making a hole-in-one at the difficult 206-yard 17th hole.
"I just hit the purest 4-iron I think I ever hit," Chapman said. "And it just went in. It was a great moment. The hairs on the back of my neck were going up and it was just an incredible feeling."
Despite the fifth ace of his career, ace, Chapman finished with a 73 that left him tied for 30th place.
NORMAN'S STRUGGLES CONTINUE: Clearly, Greg Norman's chances of winning all but ended Friday when he made a triple-bogey 8 on the par-5 16th hole. At the time, he was inside the top 20.
Needing a low round Saturday to get back in contention, Norman instead played his first four holes in 4 over par. He fought back with consecutive birdies, but settled for a 3-over 73 that left him tied for 50th place at 8-over 218.
"I got off to a bad start and that was it," Norman said. "Not much more I can say, really."
READY TO RALLY?: Six of the last seven winners of this tournament have come from behind on the final day. The lone exception was in 2004 when Hale Irwin won the tournament.
WORKING OVERTIME: The Senior PGA Championship has had 13 playoffs in its history, including two in the last four years. Jay Haas defeated Brad Bryant with a par on the third extra hole in 2006 and Mike Reid defeated Dana Quigley and Jerry Pate with a birdie on the first extra hole for the 2005 crown. Prior to that, the last playoff was back in 1993 when Tom Wargo defeated Bruce Crampton with a par on the second extra hole at PGA National.
STAT CORNER: The most difficult hole on Saturday was No. 4 with an average score of 4.416 (+.416), while No. 18 was second at 4.312 (+.312). The most difficult hole to birdie on Saturday? No. 12 with just two birdies by the 77-man field. Kirk Hanefeld and Bill Longmuir made the birdies.