Steve STRICKER produced a strong finish to his third round to ensure he will take a five-shot lead into Monday’s final round of the Tournament of Champions in Hawaii.
The Wisconsin-born 44-year-old, who was 15 under par and five strokes clear of Webb Simpson at tournament’s midway stage following a stunning ten-under-par 63 on Saturday, struggled to continue his momentum in the early part of his third round yesterday and was level par for 14 holes. That meant his advantage had dwindled to just one shot, but four birdies on his final four holes propelled him back ahead of the pack as he carded a four-under-par 69 to move to 19 under overall.
Defending champion Jonathan Byrd and Scotland’s Martin Laird both signed for 67s and were tied for second along with Simpson (69). Bryce Molder and Kevin Na were eight shots off the pace on 11 under after rounds of 67 and 71 respectively on the Plantation Course at Kapalua.
Stricker admitted he took a while to get going. “It was pretty stagnant out there for me,” he said. “I was not doing anything very special there for the first, I guess, 14 holes and then just hit a couple of good shots at 15, the par five, and stole a birdie at 16 after spinning it off the green and chipping it in.
“After that chip shot, I felt like I got a little momentum, even though there was a couple of holes to play. I got aggressive off the tee at 17 and hit a good iron approaching there, and hit two good shots at 18. So it was definitely a good finish.”
Laird too was pleased with his day’s work. The 28-year-old Glasgow-born player, who lives in Scottsdale, Arizona, said: “I’m happy with my round. I got close to the lead before Strick went and birdied the last four holes, but after playing with him yesterday, that’s no surprise.”