Swede Jonas Blixt birdied six of the last seven holes to regain a share of the lead with Zimbabwean Brendon de Jonge after Saturday’s third round of the US$4.5 million Las Vegas Open.
Co-leader with the burly De Jonge overnight, PGA Tour rookie Blixt took advantage of another near-perfect day for scoring in the Nevada desert as he fired a sizzling five-under-par 66 to post a 19-under total of 194.
De Jonge finished with four birdies in his last five holes to card a matching 66, while first-round pacesetter Ryan Moore of the US made it a three-way tie at the top after returning a flawless 65.
With the US’ Jimmy Walker (66) and Tim Herron (68) next best at 14-under, the first of four events in the PGA Tour’s Fall Series seemed set for a shoot-out yesterday between the lead trio in the final round at the TPC Summerlin.
“I enjoy it. It’s nice playing next to guys that are playing well and making putts,” said Moore, who played in the company of De Jonge and Blixt on Saturday and would do so again yesterday.
“Sometimes it makes that hole look even bigger when you see them [putts] just keep dropping. That’s what was happening, especially on the back nine today,” he said. “Both of them got rolling and made a bunch of birdies in a row and I kind of threw in a couple here and there and kind of stayed there with them.”
De Jonge, who like Blixt is bidding for his first victory on the PGA Tour, also relished the scoring frenzy.
“When everyone is playing well you can feed off each other and I think we did a good job of that today,” the 32-year-old said.
Moore, who won his only PGA Tour title at the 2009 Wyndham Championship, did not rule out the chance of a fourth contender bursting from the chasing pack yesterday.
“I’ve got two guys that I am playing against that are playing great golf and then a course that’s playing very scorable,” said the 29-year-old Las Vegas resident, who has played the TPC Summerlin layout countless times.
“Somebody that’s a handful of shots behind us can go out and shoot seven, eight, nine, 10-under,” he added.
Moore, who recorded six birdies in a bogey-free display on Saturday, equaled the course record when he fired a scintillating 61 in Thursday’s opening round.
The US’ world No. 21 Nick Watney, the highest-ranked player in the field, was at 10-under after carding a 71, level with Fijian former world No. 1 Vijay Singh (71).
US Ryder Cup captain Davis Love III, whose 12-man team stunningly lost to a resurgent Europe after being outplayed in the concluding singles at Medinah on Sunday last week, was a further five shots back after battling to a 73.
Twice major winner John Daly, who had been just four strokes off the pace overnight, spectacularly imploded as he carded a 15-over 86 to plummet from a tie for sixth into 72nd spot, last place among those players who made the cut.
Reuters, ST ANDREWS, Scotland
South Africa’s Branden Grace overcame a mental obstacle at the Dunhill Links Championship on Saturday to take a giant stride towards securing his fourth European Tour win of the season.
The 24-year-old feared for his overnight five-shot lead going into the third round at Carnoustie, the toughest of the three courses being used in this week’s US$5 million tournament.
However, Grace fired a three-under-par 69 to finish on 20-under 196, four strokes clear of Dane Thorbjorn Olesen (68), ahead of yesterday’s final round at St Andrews.
Swedish pair Alexander Noren (65) and Fredrik Andersson Hed (66) were a shot adrift on 201.
Grace made six birdies, but was not surprised to run up a double-bogey six at Carnoustie’s fearsome 15th hole.
“I didn’t play particularly well, but I got it round,” he said. “But this course does that to you mentally.”
“You expect to hit a couple of bad shots out there but I kept fighting. Everybody calls it ‘Carnasty’ and that name for me says it all — for me it’s a lot tougher than the rest,” Grace added.
Having beaten fellow South Africans and multi major-winners Ernie Els and Retief Goosen in a playoff to land the Volvo Champions title in his homeland in January, Grace is not worried about leading from the front in the last round.
“I think if I keep hitting the ball the way I am and make the putts, anything is possible,” he said.
British Open winner Els, who gave Grace a place in his golf foundation when he was a teenager, showered praise on the leader who has also won this year’s Joburg Open and China Open.
“Branden has always been a quality player, but he has really come on now,” Els said. “Fortunately for him he hits it nice and low and it runs for ever. He could well even win an Open championship, he’s that good.”