Mon, Jul 18, 2011 - Page 19 News List

Kirk makes most of ideal conditions to seize one-shot lead

AFP, MADISON, MISSISSIPPI

With a string of storms past, US PGA Tour rookie Chris Kirk made the most of ideal scoring conditions to seize a one-shot lead after three rounds of the Viking Classic on Saturday.

“I would never call it easy,” Kirk said. “But the conditions — there hasn’t been a whole lot of wind and the greens are just absolutely perfect.”

“If you hit your putt on line, it’s going to go in and that makes things a lot easier,” Kirk said.

In a day that saw the second round finish up after Friday’s weather delays, Kirk carded a third-round 64 for a 54-hole total of 198 — one shot in front of South Korean Kang Sung-hoon, Australian Peter Lonard and Americans George McNeill and D.J. Trahan.

Kang also posted a 64, while Lonard notched a 69, McNeill a 67 and Trahan a 66.

Kang, 24, is also in his rookie year on the US tour. He has played well in recent weeks, making the cut at the US Open and finishing a season-best 12th at the John Deere Classic last week.

After a strong start to the season, Kang saw his form dip as he missed five straight cuts.

He had spent most of March serving in South Korea’s military, where he obviously had little time to work on his golf stroke.

Kang was one of many who had to play 36 holes in hot, humid weather after a series of thunderstorms kept him off the course on Friday.

In the third round, he eagled the fifth and 11th holes — both par fives — vaulting up the leaderboard after starting the third round five shots behind leaders Hunter Haas and Lonard.

Kirk’s eight birdies included four in a row from the 11th. He’s trying to build on his success so far in his first season on tour. He was runner-up to Phil Mickelson at the Houston Open and is 51st on the money list.

This week offers Kirk and other newcomers a good chance to make a splash with most of the world’s top golfers at the British Open.

Another PGA Tour rookie, Jim Renner, shot a 10-under 62 for the best round of the day, which left him two shots off the lead.

“I played a little more aggressive and I got rewarded,” Renner said.

With the rain-softened Annandale course yielding plenty of birdies, yesterday’s final round promised to be a shoot-out.

“If I don’t go out and make a bunch more birdies tomorrow I’m not going to be in the lead for long,” Kirk said. “You know you have to stay aggressive. You can’t just play for par.”

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