Pat Perez, in search of his first US PGA Tour title, maintained a two-shot lead on Friday after three rounds of the US$5.1 million Bob Hope Classic.
Teeing off at the 10th hole, Perez made consistent but relatively low-key start with one birdie in his first nine holes.
He then had five birdies in his second nine holes — along with one bogey — en route to a five-under-par 67.
Perez’s 54-hole total of 25-under 191 put him two shots in front of fellow American Steve Stricker in the five-round event.
Perez started the day two strokes ahead of Briny Baird, after putting together rounds of 61 and 63 on Wednesday and Thursday for a PGA Tour record for the best 36-hole start to a tournament.
Perez, 32, caught fire after his turn, with birdies at one, two, four and five.
After just his second bogey of the tournament at par-four fifth hole, Perez responded with his 25th birdie of the tournament at the next.
Despite his hot start, Perez said he wouldn’t be setting any specific targets for the weekend.
“I’m just going to try to go as low as I can and make a lot of putts,” he said. “That’s all I’m going to do.”
“I’m not going to worry about a number. If I play great and I come up short, I come up short. But I’m not going to worry about a number or anything the other guys are doing, I can only do what I can control. So I’m just taking it one hole at a time and we’ll go from there,” he said.
Stricker, who started the day eight strokes adrift, played his way into contention with a 61 for 193.
“Just gave myself a lot of opportunities today,” said Stricker, who played on America’s victorious Ryder Cup team at Valhalla in September.
Vaughan Taylor shot a 64 for sole possession of third place on 194.
David Berganio (68), Chris Stroud (67), Sweden’s Richard Johnson (67) and Jason Dufner (67) shared fourth on 195.
Baird, who briefly took the lead on Friday, stumbled late and settle for a 70. He was among five golfers on 196, a group that also included South Korea’s Charlie Wi, whose 61 matched Stricker for best round of the day.
The 90-hole event is being played on four courses and carries a first prize of US$918,000.
AP, KAUPULEHU-KONA, HAWAII
Bernhard Langer had seven birdies on the back nine on his way to an 8-under 64 and a share of the lead with Brad Bryant in the Champions Tour’s season-opening Mitsubishi Electric Championship on Friday.
Langer, the tour’s player and rookie of the year, was 1 over through six holes, then birdied nine of his last 12 holes in the first round.
After hitting out of the bunker and sinking a 12-foot putt to save par on the par-4 sixth, Langer turned to his caddie and said, “We’ve got to stop the bleeding.”
The two-time Masters champion was coming off a three-win season when he was the lone player to break US$2 million in earnings.
Both Langer and Bryant each had a bogey and nine birdies in their rounds.
Hale Irwin, who turns 64 in June and was the second oldest player in the winners-only field, opened with a 65 to match Jeff Sluman and Jay Haas.
R.W. Eaks, who carded a rare double eagle, was at 66, along with Tom Kite.
Bryant was coming off his first winless season in three season, but broke the US$1 million mark for the third straight season with seven top-10 finishes.
After birdieing four of six holes to make the turn at 32, Bryant birdied three of four holes to start the back side. He took the outright lead by holing a curling 21-foot left-to-right putt on the par-4 16th.