Golf

Mathew Goggin moves to top at Wichita Open

Mathew Goggin has referenced his vast tournament experience throughout the week as he's made his way up the leaderboard during the Preferred Health Systems Wichita Open.

And with more than 250 PGA Tour starts and 86 Nationwide Tour events under his belt, the 37-year-old Australian is well aware of what works and what doesn't in the heat of battle.

One thing Goggin will never turn down is a lead heading into the final round. Even with a bit of a wobbly finish Saturday, Goggin snagged the upper hand with a 5-under-par 66 at Crestview Country Club that put him one shot ahead of Kyle Thompson and Troy Kelly after 54 holes.

"The more cushion you get, the better," said Goggin, who had to settle for a single-stroke lead after a disappointing bogey-par conclusion to his round. "This sort of a course, it's playing soft and guys are going low."

Not just any guys, either.

The three closest players to Goggin's 16-under 197 total are Thompson, who won last week's Rex Hospital Open in Raleigh, N.C.; Kelly, who has a pair of runner-up finishes this year; and Scott Brown, who shared second with Kelly behind Thompson in Raleigh.

Thompson, who is in the final pairing with Goggin at 1 p.m. today, and Kelly climbed to 15 under with 67s. Brown is 13 under after a 66.

All that trio and the rest of the field has to do is catch the Nationwide's leading money winner through nine tournaments this season.

Goggin won the tour's season opener in Panama, bridging a 12-year gap between his two other Nationwide victories. In between, he spent nine years on the PGA Tour. That period included a runner-up finish to Kenny Perry at the 2008 Memorial, and a final-round pairing with Tom Watson in the 2009 British Open at Turnberry, where he finished fifth.

On Saturday, he wrestled the lead away from 18- and 36-hole leader Roger Tambellini, who dropped into a tie for fifth after an even-par 71.

"It's been better each day," said Goggin, who reeled off three birdies on Crestview North's more difficult front nine, including one from a greenside bunker at the 456-yard seventh. "I've left a few out there every day, but when you hole a bunker shot and do other stuff like that, it evens itself out in the wash."

Thompson, No. 6 in 2011 tour earnings, stayed on Goggin's heels with a birdie-birdie finish that included a 15-footer from the right fringe at No. 18.

"I was in the fringes all day," said Thompson, who is bidding to become the first winner of back-to-back Nationwide tournaments since Jason Gore did it in July 2005. "Today was the biggest struggle I've had with my ball-striking. To finish the day only one back, I'm pretty happy."

Kelly, who sandwiched his second 67 around a 64 on Friday, maintained his share of second from the previous round with five birdies and one bogey. The University of Washington product had a chance to tie Goggin at No. 18, but was unable to sink a 7-footer for birdie.

"It's nice to be close to the lead," Kelly said. "In the final round, you just want to be close and have a chance to win in the last nine holes."

Goggin, sporting a rugged beard so far this week, has a battle scar from Crestview. In his last Wichita Open appearance in 2005, Goggin started the final round tied for 11th. He charged on Sunday with a 6-under 65, but settled for third, one shot behind eventual champion Joe Daley and Shane Bertsch, who decided the outcome in a playoff.

If today's champion comes from the final pairing, the Nationwide will have its first two-time winner of 2011.

"You just have to go out there and shoot 5 or 6 under again tomorrow," Goggin said. "That's what I have to do."

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