Third Round Leaderboard:
Horacio Leon – 66-68-65 (-17)
Eric Onesi – 67-68-67 (-14)
Johnny Ruiz – 69-67-69 (-11)
THE RECAP: Santiago, Chile’s Horacio Leon shot a 7-under 65 on Thursday at Crown Isle Resort and Golf Community in Comox, British Columbia to take the 54-hole lead at the Mackenzie Tour – PGA TOUR Canada’s Canada Q-School.
The 27-year old, whose older brother is two-time Mackenzie Tour winner Hugo Leon, carded eight birdies against just a single bogey on the day to build a three-shot lead by one over Bear Delaware’s Eric Onesi with one round to go.
“I started great. I hit a great lag putt on one and a good birdie putt on two, and that kind of steadied me,” said Leon, who found momentum around the turn, making six birdies in seven holes during the middle of his round. “I wasn’t hitting it great, but then on nine I chipped in and from then on I was ready to go.”
The later portion of Leon’s round was highlighted by a tremendous up-and-down at the par-3 16th, where the Chilean missed the green well to the right but produced an incredible flop shot to walk away with an unlikely par.
“It was kind of not the greatest of lies. It was a tough flop shot, but I pulled it off and hit it to six inches,” said Leon. “I went at it and pulled it off, and those are the shots sometimes that change the round.”
Onesi, who claimed medalist honours at Crown Isle in 2015, carded a 67 for his third straight round in the 60s to sit solo second, while Camarillo, California’s Johnny Ruiz was in solo third at 11-under.
CURRENT SCORES FOR MACKENZIE TOUR STATUS: After 72 holes this week, every player inside the top 40 and ties will earn Mackenzie Tour status for 2017. Below is a breakdown of where the cut-offs stand:
1st (Exempt for 2017 season): -17/1st
5th (Exempt for first 8 events, subject to 2nd reshuffle): -10/T4
16th (Exempt for first 4 events, subject to 1st reshuffle): -6/T16
40th (Conditional status): E/T37
BACKGROUND ON THE LEADER: Coming off arthroscopic surgery on his ankle just over three months ago, Leon said he didn’t have many expectations coming into the week, and admitted to feeling some pressure when he arrived for the start of Thursday’s third round near the lead.
“I got to the range, and I was really nervous,” said Leon. “I don’t know why. I guess because I didn’t expect to be in the position I was in coming out of what’s happened lately.”
A veteran of 37 starts on PGA TOUR Latinoamérica, Leon is looking to gain more experience than in 2016, when he held conditional status on the Mackenzie Tour and made just one start.
His 7-under 65 on Thursday looks to be a head start on that experience.
“On 9, I chipped in, and from then on, I’m like ‘just go. Have a good time out there,’” said Leon, describing what lesson he could take from today’s round. “It was very fun hitting at every pin with no hesitation.”
THEY SAID IT:
“I don’t know what it is. The shapes of the holes set up perfect for me, and I’m swinging really well. I gave myself a lot of chances, and 5-under was probably the worst I could have shot today.” – Eric Onesi on his comfort level competing at Crown Isle.
MORE PLAYER NOTES:
29-year old Eric Onesi played college golf at Old Dominion University and competed on the Mackenzie Tour each of the past two seasons, making 11 cuts in 23 starts including a T4 finish at the 2015 SIGA Dakota Dunes Open. Onesi was the medalist at the 2015 Canada Q-School at Crown Isle.
23-year old Johnny Ruiz earned conditional status on the Mackenzie Tour in 2015 and missed the cut in all four starts. He won the 2016 Monterey Open.
- Weather: 17 degrees Celsius, sunny, winds 6 km/h gusting to 9 km/h.
- The start of round three was delayed by two hours due to fog.
- Comox, B.C.’s Riley Wheeldon, who grew up playing at Crown Isle and finished 2nd on the Mackenzie Tour Order of Merit in 2013, shot a 3-under 69 for the second consecutive day and was tied for fourth at 10-under.
- Canadians in position to earn status: Riley Wheeldon (T4, -10); Russell Budd (T28, -2); Blair Hamilton (T28, -2).
- Former Ben Hogan Award winner and World No. 1 amateur Chris Williams was T18 after rounds of 70-70-71.
- Click here for scores.