Carrying a slim one-shot edge into the third round, Duke fired a 6-under-par 66 and now sits at 19-under through three days for a three-stroke edge over Jace Bugg (Henderson, Ky.). Doug LaBelle (Mt. Pleasant, Minn.) is four shots back. Both Bugg and LaBelle equalled the Les Quatre Domaines course-record 63 that was established Thursday by Australias Scott Hend. Craig Matthew (Ile Bizard, QC) is the top Canadian, eight shots off the lead.
Duke, 32, was the 1999 Canadian Tour McDonalds Order of Merit champion on the strength of two wins but has admittedly struggled this year, with a 13th place showing at the TELUS Vancouver Open being the highlight of 2001. As impressed as he was with the rounds displayed by Bugg and LaBelle Saturday, Duke maintained he is just focused on what he has to do to break his two-year winless drought.
Records are made to be broken, I am just trying to win a golf tournament, he admitted. This course isnt as easy as the scores would show-if you watch golf on TV or on this Tour, you know these guys can play. The greens were nice and firm today, and that allows guys to drop those 20-foot putts.
After having a dream Friday night that an accident on a neighbouring highway prevented him from getting to the course on time, Duke left early Saturday morning only to find himself locked in bumper-to-bumper traffic. He did, however, make it to the suburban Montreal club with plenty of time to spare, enabling him to continue his quest of salvaging what admittedly to date has been a season to forget.
I know how Ill play each hole tomorrow, Ill try to keep rolling in my putts and see what happens. This game is all about confidence-if you keep working hard, keep knocking at the door, eventually it is going to open for you.
Bugg, meanwhile, who finished his 63 about fifteen minutes after Labelle and will be matched with Duke in the final pairing Sunday, had an eagle, eight birdies and a bogey but stressed he can still play much better.
Im not playing nearly as well as I have been, he said. I was just grinding it out today, and got everything I could out of my round. Ken is a good player, but I wont play against just one player (Sunday). Ill be playing against the course.
After playing through swirling winds in the opening two rounds, Labelle took advantage of nearly ideal scoring conditions Saturday afternoon.
With no wind, the course was pretty vulnerable today, maintained the 26-year-old. Now Ive got a chance, and that is all I can ask. You cant ask for a round like that - you go out there and play it shot by shot, and hope it adds up to 63 or less.
Dave Christensen of Otsego, MN, who trailed Duke by one shot heading into Saturday, shot 3-over on the front nine before rebounding to wind up with a 1-under 71 and is six strokes back.
Full-field scores from the TELUS Open