American Anthony Kim fired a bogey-free six-under par 66 on Saturday to seize a four-stroke lead over Heath Slocum and Jason Bohn after the third round of the Wachovia Championship.
Kim sank a seven-foot birdie putt on the 18th hole to stand on 13-under par 203 after 54 holes at the US$6.4 million event, with compatriots Slocum and Bohn on 207 after roller-coaster rounds.
“I’m so excited, I don’t really know what to say right now,” Kim, a 22-year-old Californian of Korean heritage, said after he drained the birdie putt at the last hole.
Kim said he thought he was up to the challenge of defending the lead in the final group yesterday.
“I feel like I’m ready, but you never know,” he said. “Every day is a new day, especially in this crazy game. I’m just glad I got the third round over with and hung in there and played a really solid round in the final pairing.”
Two more Americans, Stewart Cink and Dudley Hart, shared fourth on 208.
US veteran Jim Furyk and fellow US Open winner Geoff Ogilvy of Australia were a shot further back on 209 and Fiji’s Viji Singh joined Americans Fred Couples and Pat Perez on 210.
Australian Adam Scott and US star Phil Mickelson were on 211.
Kim opened and closed the front nine with birdies and added two more at the par-5 fifth and seventh holes to seize command before dropping birdies at the 14th and closing holes.
Kim’s performance earned praise from playing partner Bohn.
“I played with someone who played extraordinarily good, almost Tiger-esque,” said Bohn, offering perhaps the ultimate compliment.
“When he missed a shot, he recovered extremely well. He made a couple of great par putts, exactly like you see Tiger Woods do. It had that feeling that if he missed a shot he was going to recover very well,” Bohn said.
Bohn also praised Kim’s attitude, a big change from the youngster’s hot-headed rookie season, Kim admitted.
“If I didn’t hit a good shot, I felt my life was over,” he said. “It’s hard to play golf that way.”
Bohn took bogeys at the second and fourth holes, answering each time with a birdie on the very next hole.
He made a bogey at seven and followed with 10 pars and a birdie at the 15th to finish level par for the day, capping his round with a stunning chip-in for par from 35 feet at the 18th to stay on Kim’s heels.