Unfancied Americans Luke Guthrie and Michael Thompson hold the lead at eight-under after the Honda Classic third round on Saturday, but England’s Lee Westwood and Australian Geoff Ogilvy were just two back.
American Rickie Fowler finished with a birdie and an eagle to push himself within three shots of the lead, alongside Charles Howell III, but Tiger Woods was tied in 32nd place, eight strokes behind the leading duo, after a third straight round of even-par 70.
Strong winds made low scores difficult. Guthrie began the day on nine-under-par and shot a one-over 71, but remained with a share of the lead as only three of the top 10 players on the leaderboard broke par.
The 23-year-old Guthrie, a PGA Tour rookie, had three bogeys and two birdies in his round while Thompson, who has never won on the PGA Tour, had four birdies and four bogeys as he shot a 70.
“I’m proud of the way I played,” said Guthrie, who played on the second tier Web.com Tour last season while completing his degree in business management at the University of Illinois.
“I played smart, solid golf, stayed away from the trouble. Stayed to the strong side of pins, and if I missed, got it up-and-down,” he said.
Thompson earned his share of the lead with a birdie on the par-five 18th, his 21-foot putt for an eagle and the outright lead, pulling up just short.
“Hard to believe downwind, downgrain, but today was a struggle obviously,” he said.
“My short game saved me; my putting saved me. I just fought through it. Just stayed positive, stayed patient, let things happen, and never got down on myself,” Thompson said.
South Africans Charl Coetzee, Darren Fichardt and Dawie van der Walt and Chilean Mark Tullo shared the Tshwane Open lead with 16-under-par totals of 200 after a storm-delayed third round on Saturday.
With another 13 golfers within six shots of the quartet, the stage was set for a thrilling climax yesterday to a new tournament on the European Tour-Sunshine Tour co-sanctioned circuit.
There are eight South Africans among the 17 leading contenders for the title, raising hopes of a third consecutive home win in the republic.
After his first-round 65 led the tournament, Fichardt slumped to a 71 in a second round completed early on Saturday after thunderstorms forced play to be abandoned on Friday two hours before the scheduled finish.
However, the 37-year-old was back to his best in the third round, picking up four birdies on each half of his journey round the par-72, 7,791-yard Copperleaf Golf and Country Estate layout.
Halfway leader Coetzee picked up six birdies and two bogeys in his 68.
Tullo and Van der Walt each carded a 67 after collecting five birdies apiece and no dropped shots.