E.A. Sports Today

T&T extend SKCC lead

Tournament favorites Cole and Wigington shoot 59 at Cider Ridge, take a four-shot lead into Championship Sunday at Anniston CC

Leaders Ty Cole and Gary Wigington and Dalton Chandler (R) follow Ott Chandler's shot off the tee Saturday. (Photos by B.J. Franklin/GungHo Photos)

Leaders Ty Cole and Gary Wigington and Dalton Chandler (R) follow Ott Chandler’s shot off the tee Saturday. (Photos by B.J. Franklin/GungHo Photos)

Ty Cole-Gary Wigington 55-59—114 (-30)
Garrett Burgess-Cypress Hathorn 58-60—118 (-26)
Dalton Chandler-Ott Chandler 59-60—119 (-25)
P.J. Shields-Jaylon Ellison 57-62—119 (-25)
Andrew Brooks-Matt Rogers 59-60—119 (-25)
Dustin Travis-Ryan Howard 62-58—120 (-24)
Marcus Harrell-Benji Turley 61-59—120 (-24)
Jim Reed-Dwight Bostick 63-57—120 (-24)

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

OXFORD – It wasn’t lost on either Ty Cole or Gary Wigington that the moment they walked off the 18th green at Cider Ridge Golf Club after Wigington dropped another late birdie a loud clap of thunder broke in the skies above them.

It was as if the golf gods were saying to the Sunny King Charity Classic leaders get off the property you got away with one today.

The pre-tournament favorites, first-time Classic partners, didn’t hit it as well as they the day before, but they still managed to shoot 13-under-par 59 in the modified scramble format and extended their lead going into Championship Sunday at Anniston Country Club.

“We could have messed up bad coming in and fortunately we put it together to get the last few holes,” Wigington said. “We escaped without making a big mistake.”

T&T, as they’re being called here, stand at 30-under 114 for the championship and hold a four-shot lead over 2013 champions Garrett Burgess and Cypress Hathorn. It’s the largest 36-hole lead since Jeremy McGatha and Jaylon Ellison led Brennan Clay and Daniel Glidewell by five in 2011.

Defending champions Ott and Dalton Chandler, P.J. Shields and Jaylon Ellison and Andrew Brooks and Matt Rogers are another shot back First-flight Birmingham players Jim Reed and Dwight Bostick shot the low round of the day (57) and are tied with Dustin Travis and 2014 winner Ryan Howard and Marcus Harrell and Benji Turley for sixth at 120.

The tournament committee has split the Ford Mustang flight for Sunday’s final round. Scores of 127 and better comprise are in championship A division.

“Tomorrow is going to be like the Cavaliers going against the Warriors,” Burgess said, throwing out an NBA Finals reference. “We’ve got a chance, but so do other teams behind us.

“We can’t get ahead of ourselves and just play with the cards we are dealt and hope we make a bunch of putts – that will be the deciding factor.”

Cole predicted it was going to be “a tough day.”

The all-time tournament scoring record is 42-under-par so that might be a stretch Sunday since no champion has ever shot a final round better than 11-under 59 at the Country Club in the tournament’s modern era – the Chandlers in last year’s record-setting title run and Ott Chandler and Gary Wilborn in 2004.

For Wigington, just going into Sunday with the lead gives him a chance to tie his former SKCC partner, Randy Reaves, as the winningest player in the Classic history. Ironically, Reaves was pressed into SKCC mode for the first time since retiring from their partnership in 2013 as an emergency partner when Kevin Daugherty’s partner fell ill before the round.

After Friday’s 17-under scramble, it was Cole who sang the praises of Wigington’s game. On Saturday, it was Wigington’s turn to praise his partner.

While it was Wigington who made clutch putts on each of the last three holes, it was Cole racking up the birdies and eagles early in the round. Cole putted first and knocked down birdies on 1, 3, 5 and eagled 9 on the front side, and then collected 10, 11 and 13 to get the back started.

“I didn’t hit it worth a damn,” Wigington said. “Ty played wonderful, made (a bunch) of birdies himself. He played great. I was just glad I could pitch in on the last few holes to save the good round that he had already played. I wasn’t contributing a whole lot until the end. He carried us today.”

In this case, turnabout is not just fair play it’s the only play.

“That’s team golf,” he Cole said. “I don’t care who it is, nobody’s going to come out here and win the Sunny King by themselves. It’s just not going to happen. You have to have both guys playing good or, in our case, he hit it really good yesterday and made all the putts and I hit it really good today and made some putts and he made a couple there at the end to save us.”

Burgess and Hathorn broke away from a four-team tie at 14-under with a stretch of nine birdies and an eagle over a 12-hole stretch in the middle of their round. They could have gone deeper, but only parred the last two holes, including the par-5 18th each of the other top seven teams in the Championship flight went birdie or better.

“We were in position all day to hit the wedges close, but failed to do so on five holes,” Hathorn said. “It went good on the back nine for us both. I’ll admit it got a little scary at first; pars just were coming too easy.

“I’m glad to be in contention. We talked about needing to be 30 (under) after two days and thought we could get there. We have a chance tomorrow, but it needs to be flawless. Even if we could catch Twig and Ty there is a full field nipping at our heels.”

Shields and Ellison started the day two shots off the lead but got off to a slow start. They turned it on late, making birdies on five of their last six holes and playing their final 11 holes in 7-under. The Chandlers were 11-under through 15, but birdied only 18 coming home. Howard and Travis were 7-under through six holes and were 9-under at the turn. Turley and Harrell were 7-under after an eagle on the par-4 seventh and 8-under at the turn.

Brooks and Rogers stayed in the hunt in part to two more eagles by Brooks; he chipped in on the par-4 13th and made a 30-foot putt on 18 to finish.

“I feel comfortable on the par-5s; I feel like that’s where my only advantage lies,” the long-hitting Brooks said. “The par-4s in this tournament are set up shorter than normal also, which gives me a chance from either close to or on the green. I know that sounds too simple, but that’s really all it comes down to.”

Benji Turley drops his head after a putt fails to drop Saturday at Cider Ridge.

Benji Turley drops his head after a putt fails to drop Saturday at Cider Ridge.

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