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Golf

Rookie Kirk leads at Viking Classic

The Associated Press
Published:   |   Updated: March 20, 2013 at 02:16 PM
MADISON, Miss. -

As the birdies mounted during Saturday's third round of the Viking Classic, it looked as if Chris Kirk could do just about anything he wanted at Annandale Golf Club.

Golf isn't supposed to be this easy. But the 26-year-old PGA Tour rookie sure made it look that way.

"I would never call it easy," Kirk said. "But the conditions — there hasn't been a whole lot of wind and the greens are just absolutely perfect. If you hit your putt on line, it's going to go in and that makes things a lot easier."

Kirk fired an 8-under 64 to take a one stroke lead going into the final round of the Viking Classic, just ahead of Sunghoon Kang, D.J. Trahan, George McNeill and Peter Lonard.

Kirk made four birdies in a row on the back nine in an impressive showing for one of the tour's most successful rookies this season. He finished second behind Phil Mickelson at the Shell Houston Open and ranks 51st on the money list. He won two Nationwide events in 2010, finishing second on the money list to earn his PGA Tour card.

With the world's best golfers at the British Open, the Viking Classic leaderboard is dotted with young players.

Kang, a 24-year-old South Korean, is also in his rookie year on the PGA Tour. He's played some of his best golf over the past couple weeks, making the cut at the U.S. Open and finishing a season-best 12th at the John Deere Classic last week.

It was a long day for much of the field, with several players having to complete the second round before starting the third because of rain delays Friday. Kang was one of many golfers who had to play 36 holes.

Another PGA Tour rookie, Jim Renner, shot a 10-under 62 for the best round of the day. He started the third round eight strokes back, but is in contention as one of three golfers two shots back.

Trahan won the Viking Classic in 2006 and shot a 66 on Saturday.

Now the leaders prepare for what figures to be a final-round shootout on a course that's giving up birdies by the fistful. Kirk said that makes strategy quite simple. "If I don't go out and make a bunch more birdies tomorrow I'm not going to be in the lead for long," Kirk said. "You know you have to stay aggressive. You can't just play for par. That's not going to work."

SOUTHERN AMATEUR: Georgia All-American Harris English broke out of a five-way jam at the top of the leaderboard to win the 105th Southern Amateur on Saturday at Innisbrook.

With five players knotted at 6 under par heading into the final nine holes, English birdied four of his next six holes to open a three-stroke lead over the elite international field.

English completed his round at a tournament-low 65 for a 275 total.

"I didn't want to stop while I was on a roll," said English. He had hit into a bunker on his approach to the 17th before play was halted by lightning, but he blasted to within a foot of the hole when play resumed.

Three strokes back were Australian Tarquin MacManus, Georgia Tech's Richy Werenski and Alabama sophomore Bobby Wyatt.

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