Brown carries three-shot lead into final round of 101st Met Open

OLD WESTBURY, N.Y. (August 23, 2016)Mark Brown of Tam O’Shanter will take a three-shot lead into the final round of the 101st Met Open Championship, following his second consecutive round of 1-under 69 at Glen Oaks Club on Tuesday. Brown’s sub-par round was one of seven on the day, as calmer conditions provided better scoring opportunities at Glen Oaks, but the course still didn’t yield low scores.

Mike Ballo, Jr., of Woodway claimed another one of the under-par scores, following his opening round 72 with a 69 to stand as Brown’s closest threat. Kevin Foley of Neshanic Valley added an even-par 70 to sit four strokes back at 142.

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“It was definitely a little lighter on the winds, but still tricky winds out there with the pins where they are and a couple tees pushed back,” remarked 49-year old Brown after finishing play as part of the morning wave. “It played a little bit easier, but I wouldn’t say a whole lot easier.”

Despite a slow start and missing the first five greens in regulation, Brown’s short game and putter kept him rolling. He carded just one bogey in the early going—on the par-4 fourth—and broke through with his first birdie on the par-4 11th. He added two more birdies on the way in—including one on the challenging par-4 finisher—to just one bogey for the 1-under 69 and 138 total.

“The putting was really lights out again,” reported Brown, who is looking to become just the sixth player with three or more Met Open titles, having also won in 1999 at Tuxedo and 2013 at Old Westbury. “I hit every putt the way I wanted to today. Again, my assistant Josh [his caddie], he reads the greens tremendously and we were right on for two days now, so I’m kind of looking forward to tomorrow.”

Brown is looking to continue a quality summer of play, which has seen him claim a runner-up finish at the PGA Professional Championship and compete in the PGA Championship at Baltusrol. “I haven’t done anything really great this week other than maybe putting, but I’m just looking forward to getting out there and hopefully making some birdies,” closed Brown.

For Ballo Jr., his iron play has helped him maneuver the challenging Glen Oaks layout, which played at 7,045 as a par-70 for Tuesday’s second round. “I didn’t miss many greens,” he said. “I think I missed one or two greens all day, so I never really was in a place where I was in trouble. I managed the game well today.”

The recent McKenzie Tour (PGA TOUR Canada) competitor stood 2-under through eight holes, but followed with back-to-back bogies to return to even-par. He returned to form with five consecutive pars, before tacking on a birdie on the uphill par-4 16th. Another birdie bid slid just past the hole on the 18th following a blind approach shot, leading to the 69.

Ballo, who turns 28 on Thursday, is aiming to continue the steady play in the final round and add to his MGA resume, which already includes a pair of Ike titles. “I’m controlling my distances really well. As long as I just keep doing that, I should be in pretty good position come the end of tomorrow,” he finished.

Foley stands as another competitor with professional tour experience returning back to the Met Area. Though the 2008 Ike champion had a rough start to the day—playing his first seven in 4-over—he fought through the inward nine en route to an even-par 70. “I started to hit some good quality golf shots on the back nine to set up some looks and opportunities and was able to end up balancing it out, grabbing four birdies on the back to shoot even,” explained Foley, 29. “It was nice to fight back to kind of be somewhat in the mix tomorrow.”

Sitting five shots behind Brown are 2011 Met Open champion Tyler Hall of Upper Montclair and Cameron Young of Sleepy Hollow, who is looking to be the low amateur in the Met Open for the second straight year. Hall carded an even-par 70 thanks to a birdie on the 18th, while Young tallied just two birdies today compared to his field-best six in the opening round.

A trio of Met Open champions lead a group of five tied for sixth at 4-over 144: Grant Sturgeon of Winged Foot (2014), Frank Bensel of Century (2007) and Mark Mielke (1992, 2008). Also in that group are 2016 LIGA Open winner Jimmy Hazen of St. George’s and Andrew Farrell of Doral Arrowwood.

Eight players came in at 5-over 145 following two days of play, including Mike Miller of Knollwood who, along with Christopher DeForest of Rondout and Kyle Higgins of Inwood, fired the championship-low round of 2-under 68 on Wednesday.

“Today I kept the ball below the hole—yesterday I was above the hole all day and unfortunately had too many putts,” said Miller, referencing his opening round 77. Looking forward to tomorrow, Miller knows he and others around him have a challenge ahead, but he feels it’s still possible to make a run. “Today it could have been a lot lower, so I know it’s out there—you just have to play well. If we get off to a really good start, it should take care of itself.”

Following 36-holes of play, the field was cut to the low 60 scores and ties. Wednesday’s final round will include 71 competitors who all shot a 36-hole score of 151 or better. Play will begin at 6:45 a.m., with the leaders teeing off at 12:00 p.m.

The MGA will provide live hole-by-hole scoring for the majority of players during Wednesday’s final round, available on the My MGA app or from www.mgagolf.org. Additional live coverage may be found on the MGA’s Twitter and (@MGA1897) snapchat (mgagolf1897) accounts.

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