Mills overcame a rollercoaster ride Saturday to card a 1-over 72 and is now at 9-under 204 through 54 holes, one shot in front of Winnipegs Rob McMillan and Chris Wisler of Dover, DE. Dave Christensen of Elk River, MN is two shots back, while Doug McGuigan (Langley, BC), David Faught (South Africa) and Mark Johnson (Helendale, CA) are at 6-under 207.
With the luxury of a two-shot edge as he teed it up Saturday, the 25-year-old Mills had a fast start out of the gate with birdies on three of his first four holes before bogeying three of his next four. With his round seemingly on the verge of going off the rails, Mills kept his composure, putting himself in position to collect the $24,000 winners cheque. After a bogey on the par-5 15th trimmed his cushion to one, Mills canned a clutch 22-foot par putt from off the green on the final hole to remain in the final pairing Sunday.
I got off to a great start today, and Im not sure if the nerves got to me or what, but I struggled coming in, Mills admitted. But even when things were going the wrong way, I was able to keep composed. Making the putt on 18 was huge, but I was losing some confidence standing over some putts today. Ill have to get it back tomorrow.
The story of the day belonged to McMillan, who began the day eight shots back but now finds himself well within striking distance with 18 holes to go. The 27-year-old birdied his first three holes, canned a 20-footer for par on number nine, the toughest hole at Pine Ridge, and followed that up with another three consecutive birdies.
Back in 1996, McMillan thrilled the city when he became the last amateur to win a Tour title, roaring back from six shots on the final day to capture the Xerox Manitoba Open. On Sunday, the hometown support should feel like another club in the bag for the three-time Tour champion.
I knew if I could get my name on the board early, I could get the leaders thinking and get the crowd on my side, said I love playing here, thats what it is all about. I came out wanting to get myself back in the golf tournament and I did that. It should make for a fun day (Sunday).
Making up the final pairing of the day will be Mills and McMillan, two of the brightest stars making their way through the Canadian golf ranks. As an amateur, Mills had a memorable 2001 season, helping Canada to the Four Nations Cup crown while placing 6th in the NCAA National Championship. But on Sunday, he will experience a different sort of pressure when he plays in front of what is sure to be a frenzied gallery at Pine Ridge.
Ive never been in this situation as a pro, but Rob is a great guy and we will have a lot of fun. The crowd will be double in size with the hometown favourite. Two Canadians, one of them a local guy, in the final pairing'you cant ask for anything more.
Besides his win in 1996, McMillan also had a near miss in Winnipeg back in 2000, when he finished second. Ben Ferguson dashed any hopes McMillan had for his second win on his native soil when he birdied five of his final seven holes to win. McMillan had a laugh when recalling that Sunday three years ago, and is hoping for a different finish this time around.
Ive been lucky enough to have had some good memories here. I thought I had a chance back in 2000, but down the stretch Ben said uh-uh. Maybe its my turn this time.