Edmonton – California’s Aaron Wise and Washington’s Brock Mackenzie shot a pair of matching 6-under 66s on Saturday at Glendale Golf and Country Club to share the 54-hole lead at the Syncrude Oil Country Championship presented by AECON, the seventh event of the 2016 Mackenzie Tour – PGA TOUR Canada season.
Wise, the 2016 NCAA Men’s Individual and Team Champion at the University of Oregon, rolled in a 15-foot birdie putt on the 18th hole to reach 17-under and shoot 66 for the second straight day, a feat Mackenzie matched shortly after.
“I looked at the leaderboard and saw I could be in the final group, which is where I wanted to be. To make a nice 15-footer on the last hole was good,” said Wise, who has just one blemish on his scorecard through three rounds. “I’ve only made one bogey this week and that came with an out-of-bounds ball, so it’s a testament to how well I’m striking the ball and if I can get a few of those mid-range putts to drop, there’s a low one out there for me.”
Mackenzie, a two-time Tour winner who won the last time he played in Alberta at the 2014 ATB Financial Classic, cruised steadily for most of the day before going eagle-birdie-birdie on holes 14-16 to earn a share of the lead.
“I plugged along and played real solid. I got a very nice kick on my approach into 14, when it kicked right down to about six feet for eagle,” said Mackenzie, who added that his goal was to try and separate himself from the pack on Moving Day. “The guys are so good on this Tour and they go so low, you want to try and get as far ahead as possible just because you know there’s going to be guys shooting 8-under tomorrow.”
The win sets up a Sunday duel between two players in differing points of their respective careers, with the 35-year old Mackenzie pitting years of experience against the 20-year old Wise’s youth and exuberance.
“A Husky versus a Duck, old versus young. There’s a lot of fun ways you can play with that, so it’ll be fun tomorrow,” said Mackenzie, a former University of Washington standout.
For Wise, who made his pro debut at the U.S. Open, Sunday represents a chance to continue what has been a dream season so far in 2016, including his NCAA win and a semi-finalist nomination for the Ben Hogan Award during his sophomore season at Oregon. The Californian pointed to an amateur event in Australia this past January as the turning point for his stellar rise in the game.
“I look back at the Australian Master of the Amateurs as kind of the turning point for me,” said Wise. “That was the first tournament I’ve ever played where I was expected to win. I was the lowest ranked guy there, and to have that pressure on me and play as well as I did and win at Royal Melbourne, it gave me so much confidence.”
“I think my expectations,” Wise added, “are higher than just about anyone else’s. I know how good I can be and just how much work I’ve put into being as good as I can, especially now that I’ve turned pro.”
Two shots back of Wise and Mackenzie was Georgia’s Seth Reeves, who shot the round of the tournament with an 8-under 64 on Saturday, while PGA TOUR Latinoamérica Order of Merit leader Puma Dominguez was a shot further behind at 14-under.