|1||Jeffrey Kang (U.S.)||73-69-67—209 (-7)|
|T2||a-Briggs Duce (U.S.)||69-69-74—212 (-4)|
|T2||Joseph Harrison (U.S.)||72-68-72—212 (-4)|
|T2||Blake Cannon (U.S.)||72-69-71—212 (-4)|
|T2||George Markham (U.S.)||70-71-71—212 (-4)|
|T6||Jeffrey Swegle (U.S.)||74-71-68—213 (-3)|
|T6||a-Ethan Casto (U.S.)||72-69-72—213 (-3)|
|T6||Shintaro Ban (U.S.)||72-71-70—213 (-3)|
SAN JACINTO, California — On a day when the stroke average at the Mackenzie Tour – PGA TOUR Canada Qualifying Tournament was 76.163 on the par-72 Soboba Springs Golf Club, Jeffrey Kang shot a 67. With players making 458 bogeys during a cold, windy Southern California day, Kang contributed exactly zero to that total.
It was that impressive a day by the former USC golfer, using those remarkable numbers to finish at 7-under through 54 holes, a score that gives him a commanding three-shot advantage over a quartet of players—amateur Briggs Duce, Joseph Harrison, Blake Cannon and George Markham. The tournament champion earns exemptions into every 2021 Mackenzie Tour tournament.
Playing Soboba Springs’ back nine first, Kang was workmanlike, sandwiching seven pars around birdies on his first and ninth holes. He added three more birdies on the back, his 67 matching Norman Xiong for the low round of the tournament. He also did all this damage with a new putter he put in the bag Thursday morning.
“I switched to one of the old putters I used to use. It’s an Odyssey 7. It’s probably been a year since I’ve used it, but I’ve been putting so bad the last two days that it was a good change,” Kang said.
The putter brought immediate results when Kang rolled in a 15-footer for birdie on his first hole, a harbinger of things to come. He was the only player in the field to go bogey-free.
“Everything (I made) was about 15 feet and in. I just made a lot more 10- and 15-footers today,” Kang observed. “I missed so many of them [Wednesday] and the day before. Today I didn’t miss any of those. That was kind of the big difference from the first two rounds.”
Kang’s stellar play at Soboba Springs should come as no surprise. Last week, he played in a 54-hole Swing Thought Tour event here and used rounds of 70-64-70 to finish second, four shots behind Chad Hambright. Kang is knocking on the door to win again as he looks to close the deal Friday, with warmer weather predicted. He’ll have to hold off the four who are immediately behind him, along with former Stanford star Jeffrey Swegle, current Mackenzie Tour member Shintaro Ban and amateur Ethan Casto, all at 3-under and four shots behind.
Duce, the 36-hole leader, didn’t have his best stuff Thursday, shooting a 2-over 74 after opening with a pair of 69s but remained both philosophical and hopeful.
“I was scrambling the whole day. The wind was really tough to judge, and I was just trying to do the best I could,” said Duce, a senior at the University of Arizona who is using his father as his caddie this week. “A lot of the time I was going long or ending up a little short and having to scramble. I was doing a really good job of it holding on until I got to 18.”
On his closing hole, at 1-over for the day and 5-under for the tournament, Duce misjudged the wind, thinking it would carry his approach into the par-5. He hit the shot a little thin, the ball landing and spinning into the water. “When you mis-hit it, it doesn’t catch the wind. I was telling [the ball] to go.”
Kang, Cannon and Duce will make up the final threesome of the day, teeing off at 12:30 p.m.
Did you know Jeffrey Kang won the season-opening Chengdu Championship on PGA TOUR Series-China in 2018? A pair of 64s, in the second and final rounds, lifted him to a five-shot triumph over the trio of William Harrold, Sejun Yoon and Callum Tarren. Kang finished that season eighth on the Series’ Order of Merit, earning Korn Ferry Tour membership.
How the Tournament Works
One-hundred-six players entered this tournament this week, and 102 remain. Below is a breakdown of the various Mackenzie Tour membership statuses available this week.
|Medalist||Exempt membership for the 2021 season|
|2nd through 6th (no ties
|Exempt through the reshuffle, which will occur approximately halfway through the season|
|7th through 25th (plus ties)||Conditional membership|
- This is a 72-hole, no-cut event. There will be playoffs, if necessary, for the medalist position and for the sixth and final position available.
- Players in this week’s field come from eight countries (Australia, Canada, Chinese Taipei, South Korea, Mexico, Philippines, Trinidad and Tobago and the United States).
- Soboba Springs’ toughest hole Thursday was the par-3 14th hole. There were only four birdies there all day, with 31 bogeys, 13 double bogeys and 11 “others.” The stroke average was 3.875. No. 18 was the easiest hole, the par-5 playing to a stroke average of 4.60.
- Of the 20 amateurs in the field this week, four are in the top 20. Leading the way is Briggs Duce, tied for second with 18 holes remaining. Ethan Casto is tied for sixth (3-under) after a pair of 72s to go with a second-round 69. Mitchell Schow stumbled to a 2-over 74 and is tied for 11th, at 1-under, while Chinese Taipei’s Yung Hua Liu is 1-over and tied for 16th after back-to-back 73s.
- After only 11 players were able to break par on the opening day, there were 25 under-par scores in Wednesday’s second round. On the strength of the worst weather of the week, Thursday’s third round yielded nine under-par scores, and only two in the 60s—both by Jeffreys (Kang’s 67 and Swegle’s 68).
- Blake Cannon made the turn to the back nine at 2-under and moved to 3-under through 14 holes when he went through a tough patch that knocked him back. He hit a bunker shot into the water at the par-5 15th hole, forcing him to take a penalty shot that led to a double bogey-7. He then bogeyed Nos. 16 and 17 before finishing with an eagle on his closing hole for a roller-coaster finish. “I definitely had my stretch on 15, 16 and 17. Thankfully, I eagled the last hole. Overall, I played a lot of good golf,” Cannon said. “I did a good job of taking advantage of the holes where I could make birdies. I capitalized there.”
- After earning Korn Ferry Tour membership coming off a top-10 Order of Merit finish on PGA TOUR Series-China, Jeffrey Kang made three 2019 Korn Ferry Tour starts, getting to the weekend once.
- Jeffrey Swegle made a big move Thursday, shooting a 4-under 68. Swegle rolled in six birdies and two bogeys after opening the tournament 74-71. He improved 16 positions on the leaderboard and enters Friday’s final round tied for sixth.
- After making birdie on his opening hole—No. 10 at Soboba Springs—Jeffrey Swegle flew his approach shot long on the par-4 11th. When he arrived at his ball, he realized he had left his 56-degree lob wedge on the practice green. No problem. He chipped with his sand wedge and was able to get up and down for par. A rules official was kind enough to retrieve his missing club later in the round.
- Shintaro Ban has improved his score in each of the first three rounds. The UNLV product opened with an even-par 72, followed that with a 71 and was 2-under Thursday, shooting a 70. Ban, at 3-under, is tied for sixth. He’s currently conditionally exempt on the Mackenzie Tour based on his 2020 performance at the Qualifying Tournament in Dothan, Alabama. He is hoping to improve his status leading into this season.
- On the par-5 fifth hole, Shintaro Ban hit his drive down the left side, with the wind blowing hard on that side of the fairway. “You don’t really know where the ball is going to end up, honestly, but I just smashed one,” he said of his tee ball. From there, 163 yards out, he had to cut his second shot around a tree, the ball landing perfectly on the green and setting up Ban for a 12-foot downhill eagle putt that he made. “But on these greens, you don’t know what they’re going to do, either,” he added.
Quotable from the Players
“No real big mistakes; a really solid round. No bogeys, which was pretty hard to do today. I definitely putted better, and it feels good.” –Jeffrey Kang
“I did a lot of work today, and hopefully it keeps on going.” –Jeffrey Kang
“I feel like I am playing really well and have been for a while. It’s been a weird year for a lot of people not being able to play anywhere.” –Jeffrey Kang
“I feel like I had a so-so year after that. I think I was pressing a little too much after that season. I just felt so close to where I wanted to go.” –Jeffrey Kang on his struggles after his breakthrough 2018 win on PGA TOUR Series-China
“I don’t feel down. Today, I didn’t hit it as well as I did the first two days. I did all that I could, and I’m fine with that.” –Briggs Duce
“I putted the ball really well today. That’s why I’m not too down.” –Briggs Duce
“All in all, I’m glad I just kind of hung on to my round.” –Briggs Duce
“It was hard. It was really hard. The greens got firm. It was one of those days when you know everybody is going to make some bogeys so you try to stay tough through them.” –Blake Cannon
“I just tried to manage the best I could. When it’s that hard, you know par is really good and sometimes that can be fun to play that way, too.” –Blake Cannon
“I know I’m in a good spot, so I’ll go out and try to play the best golf I can.” –Blake Cannon on his final-round expectations
“I did a really good job of putting myself on the wide side of almost every hole. The greens here are pretty small. Instead of playing straight at the pin, I hedged my bets and moved a little to the left or right. I had a lot of 10- to 15-(foot) looks from the center side of the green, which made it really easy.” –Jeffrey Swegle
“After the round [Wednesday] I thought the number to accomplish what I wanted to accomplish was 5-under or so. I was really pleased with how I played today. –Jeffrey Swegle on what he felt his 72-hole score needed to be to earn Mackenzie Tour membership
“It wasn’t easy at all. Two-under is good.” –Shintaro Ban assessing his day
“It’s just patience. You can’t force anything out here. If bogeys happen, they happen. I had my first double (bogey this week), but I still have 18 holes left.” –Shintaro Ban
“It was nasty. But what can you do? I’m not the only one out here. If I complain about the weather, that’s on me.” –Shintaro Ban
Third-Round Weather: Overcast and cold, with brief sunshine. Play began with the temperature at 42. Warmed to 54 in the afternoon, with wind SW at 10-14 mph. Wind-chill temperatures dropped into the low 40s in the afternoon.