(Reuters) - Will MacKenzie produced a roller-coaster, birdie-bogey-birdie finish to share the lead with fellow American Andrew Svoboda after the third round of the $5.6 million McGladrey Classic at Sea Island in Georgia on Saturday.
MacKenzie, who had delivered the shot of the day with a spectacular ace at the par-three sixth, fired a five-under-par 65 in ideal scoring conditions on the Seaside Course to post a 12-under total of 198.
In pursuit of his third career victory on the PGA Tour, the 40-year-old from North Carolina ended the round with a flourish by draining a monster putt from 44 feet at the par-four last.
”That was huge,“ a beaming MacKenzie told Golf Channel of his unexpected birdie to close. ”My caddie, he actually redeemed himself on 18. He said ‘it’s about time for Willy Mac to drop a bomb.’
”And I go, ‘Yeah, we haven’t really made any bombs this week.’ So he got me thinking and obviously I hit it hard enough. I just got lucky there but it feels great.
“After butchering 17, that’s huge momentum for me. Dinner will taste better,” added MacKenzie, who has not triumphed on the PGA Tour since the 2008 Viking Classic.
His birdie on 18 left him in a tie at the top with journeyman Svoboda, who rebounded from a double-bogey at the 11th with three birdies in the last six holes for a 66.
Fellow American Russell Henley, the overnight leader who is also seeking a third win on the U.S. circuit, was alone in third at 11 under after carding a three-birdie 68.
The final round in the third event of the PGA Tour’s 2014-15 season is poised for a thrilling shootout on Sunday with nine players bunched within four shots of the lead.
MacKenzie, an outdoor enthusiast who is a professional kayaker, made the biggest early move on Saturday as he soared into a tie at the top with his ace at the sixth where he holed out from 174 yards, his ball pitching straight into the cup.
He briefly edged one stroke clear with a birdie at the seventh, sinking a 15-footer, before he was caught at the top by Henley, who holed out from similar range at the eighth.
Svoboda, who had drained a curling 21-footer to birdie the eighth, followed up with a six-footer at the ninth to make it a three-way tie for the lead.
Argentina’s Fabio Gomez, following three consecutive birdies from the seventh, picked up another shot at the 11th to join Henley, MacKenzie and Svoboda at 11 under.
Henley regained the outright lead with a three-foot birdie putt at the 11th before Gomez pulled level after getting up and down from a greenside bunker to birdie the par-five 15th.
Both Gomez and Henley slipped back with bogeys, and MacKenzie moved a stroke in front after hitting an exquisite approach to six feet at the 16th and sinking the putt.
Though MacKenzie stumbled at the 17th after overshooting the green off the tee, his lengthy birdie putt at the last put him level with Svoboda, who had got to 12 under with a 23-foot birdie putt on the penultimate hole.
Reporting by Mark Lamport-Stokes in Los Angeles; Editing by Gene Cherry/Greg Stutchbury