Canada’s Connelly sits 2nd at ATB Financial Classic

Austin Connelly/ PGA TOUR

Calgary – On a day where low scoring was the norm, England’s Charlie Bull shot a 7-under 65 at Country Hills Golf Club to take a two-stroke lead after 54 holes of the ATB Financial Classic, the eighth event of the 2016 Mackenzie Tour – PGA TOUR Canada season.

Beginning the day two strokes behind co-leaders Austin Connelly and Carlos Sainz Jr., Bull eagled the par-5 second to close the gap before driving the green on the par-4 fifth hole to tap-in range for his second eagle of the day. Adding a birdie on the par-5 seventh hole, Bull made the turn with a one-stroke lead and never let it go.

“On the 330-yard par-4 [fifth] I hit it to two feet and that’s just pure luck,” said Bull, who is looking for his first career Mackenzie Tour – PGA TOUR Canada win. “I hit a nice shot but it was still pure luck to get it that close and make eagle there so there were no complaints on the round. I got lucky where I did and took advantage of my opportunities which was nice.”

Bull, 24, finished off his third-round 65 with a lengthy downhill birdie on the 18th to cap off his career-low round on the Mackenzie Tour in 19 events. With four other 65s on Moving Day in Calgary, Bull knows he is going to need another low round on the gettable Country Hills GC layout in order to secure his first title on Sunday.

“It’s going to take another low one tomorrow to get it done,” Bull said. “There are a lot of guys going low and I know I need to shoot a good round, but it was nice to be able to hold onto the lead today and keep myself in good position.

“Every single putt matters so there is no taking it easy on a putt. On 18 I had a downhiller but I knew I couldn’t leave it short so I gave it a run and got rewarded for it so you have to stay confident and aggressive in your game plan out here, otherwise you will get lapped all day long.”

Bull will take a two-shot lead to Sunday over a group of four players at 14-under and nine others that are within five shots, a position he has yet to experience in his career.

“I’ve never been in this position but it feels really nice to know that I’m playing well and hitting good shots,” Bull said. “It is relaxing knowing that I have to go deep. A lot of the time it’s difficult when you are trying to nurse a lead by making pars. Out here you are just trying to make birdies – there’s no other way around it because that is what it will take to get it done.”

Tyler McCumber, Conrad Shindler, 36-hole co-leader Connelly and Monday qualifier Scott Wolfes are tied for second at 14-under. Bull will be joined by Wolfes and Shindler in the final group on Sunday. All three shot 65 on Saturday.

Connelly birdied the 17th hole on Saturday to shoot a 3-under 69 and remain in the hunt for his first professional title with 18 holes remaining.

Connelly is playing his first full season on the Mackenzie Tour and has two top-10 finishes through seven events, including a solo third three weeks ago at the Staal Foundation Open presented by Tbaytel – his best finish to date as a professional.

If Connelly were to win on Sunday, he would become the youngest player to win on the Mackenzie Tour – PGA TOUR Canada in the PGA TOUR era (2013-present), supplanting last week’s winner Aaron Wise.

He is playing in the PGA TOUR’s John Deere Classic next week on a sponsor’s exemption and already has five PGA TOUR appearances to his credit, making the cut on three occasions.

Connelly is also a former member of Golf Canada’s National Amateur team, having been selected as an 18-year-old for the 2015 squad.