The Children's Hospital Classic could be in store for another Sunday shootout.
The Classic has been determined by either a playoff or by one stroke in the previous eight years of the Nationwide Tour event at Black Creek Club.
John Mallinger is in the best position to win. The former PGA Tour card owner shot a 7-under-par 65 on Saturday and is at 20-under 196 through 54 holes.
He owns a two-stroke lead over Billy Hurley III, who is No. 23 on the Nationwide money list.
"I've been in [similar] situations the last five weeks in a row, so I know the feelings I'll have on the first tee and the feelings I'll have throughout the day," said Mallinger, who has finished in the top 10 of five straight tournaments.
"I'll have to stay patient and keep doing what I'm doing," he said. "I'm not anxious or anything; I'm just going out and playing golf."
Mallinger played in the final group Saturday with Hurley, a retired Navy lieutenant, and will do so again in the final round today beginning at 1:20 p.m.
Hurley shot a 6-under 66 on Saturday and is at 198. Monday-qualifier Brice Garnett is another shot back, and Miguel Carballo of Argentina is at 200 in fourth place. Aussie Peter Lonard is tied with 2006 Classic champion Justin Bolli for fifth at 201.
They're not out of it.
"It always comes down to putting, and it was good fun," Lonard said. "Golf is most fun when you're in contention to win a tournament. It's a sense of accomplishment when you're in that position, and hopefully you get a chance to hit that shot to win the tournament."
Mallinger hit shots Saturday. He hit all 18 greens in regulation (he's 53-of-54 for the tournament) and rolled in seven birdies.
This is the first time he has owned the outright lead through 54 holes on the Nationwide Tour. He already is more under par than last year's winning score of 19 under by Scott Gardiner.
"Winning would be big confidence-wise going into next year," Mallinger said. "Any time you win on the big tours it's a big thing."
Hurley almost matched Mallinger shot-for-shot and even topped him on No. 8. Hurley holed out from 97 yards away in the fairway with his ball taking one hop and dropping in the cup for the only eagle on that hole all tournament.
"Useful," he joked.
That shot propelled him to shoot 5 under on the front, then shooting 1 under on the back including a bogey on the par-5 14th hole. A birdie from Mallinger there resulted in a two-shot swing and the edge he now owns.
"You just have to keep making birdies and keep hitting good golf shots," Hurley said. "I think we're pretty fortunate that there aren't more guys at 19 under."
Hurley and the remaining golfers in the field still have 18 (or more) holes to play. And crazy things have happened out here before. Hurley remembers catching the scores of one such case in 2006.
Kyle Reifers began the final round of the 2006 Classic seven shots off the lead. He shot 61 in that round and beat Brandt Snedeker in a playoff to win. He was in a nine-way tie for 13th.
This year, he is seven shots back after shooting 3 under on Saturday.
"I'm playing good enough to do something crazy," Reifers said. "I've done it once."
David Uchiyama is a sports writer at the Chattanooga Times Free Press who began his tenure here in May 2001. His primary beats are UTC athletics — specifically men’s basketball and athletic department administration — and golf, which includes coverage from the PGA Tour to youth events. He also covers other high school sports, outdoor adventures, and contributes to other sections of the newspaper when necessary. David grew up in Salinas, Calif., and began working ...