LOS ANGELES: Top-ranked Masters champion Scottie Scheffler closed with a 30-foot birdie putt to seize a two-stroke lead after Saturday’s wind-whipped third round of the US PGA Charles Schwab Challenge.
The 25-year-old American, chasing his fifth victory of the year, fired a 2-under par 68 to stand on 11-under 199 after 54 holes at Colonial Country Club in Fort Worth, Texas.
“The winds were up really high. The greens were actually pretty firm, and so it was challenging,” said Scheffler. “The birdies were not coming easy to anybody out there late in the day.”
Scheffler, among eight players sharing the 18-hole lead and four co-leaders after 36, had not made a bogey over the first 52 holes before stumbling at the 17th.
But he responded with a dramatic birdie at the 18th to stretch his lead back to two entering Sunday’s final round.
“I was glad it was going toward the cup. I hit it a little bit too firm,” Scheffler said of his final birdie. “I struggled a little bit with the speed of the greens today. It’s tough when the wind gets blowing that hard.
“Like 18, I’m putting downhill but straight into the wind. That one I was just trying to make sure I got to the hole because putting downhill when the greens get iffy late in the day is very tough... fortunately that one hit the bottom of the cup.”
An eagle-birdie start helped American Brendon Todd shoot 65, the day’s low round, to share second on 201 with countryman Scott Stallings. American Harold Varner was in fourth on 202.
Patrick Reed, the 2018 Masters champion, was on 203 with fellow Americans John Huh and Chris Kirk and Australian Cam Davis.
Scheffler could become the first world No. 1 to win the event since Australian Adam Scott in 2014.
With a victory, Scheffler would join South African Bobby Locke from 1947 and Australian Joe Kirkwood Sr. from 1923 as players winning their first five PGA Tour titles in the same season. Locke took six in his debut campaign while Kirkwood won five.
After winning his first US PGA title at Phoenix in February, Scheffler won at Bay Hill and captured the WGC Match Play title in March then won his first major title at Augusta National in April to overtake Spain’s Jon Rahm as world No. 1.
Patience was at a premium on a blustery day for Scheffler, who parred his way through the front nine to remain tied for the lead.
At the 10th, Scheffler found greenside rough but chipped in from 20 feet to seize the solo lead, then landed his approach at the par-5 11th inches from the cup and tapped in to reach 11-under and lead by two.
At 14, Scheffler chipped from 70 feet to inches from the cup for a tap-in par, but his bogey-free run ended with a five-foot par putt miss at the 17th, setting the stage for his dramatic birdie finish.
“This is a golf course you have to be pretty careful around. It’s very challenging,” Scheffler said.
Todd drove the green in two and sank an eight-foot eagle putt on the par-5 opening hole, then holed out from just over 33 feet at the second.
Todd dropped his approach to four feet to set up a birdie at the sixth and rolled in a 30-foot birdie putt at the par-3 eighth, then parred his way to the clubhouse.