Tom Kim with another Saturday 62 in Las Vegas is part of 3-way tie for the lead

LAS VEGAS (AP) — Tom Kim, the defending champion, tapped into his intuition and hit his stride on Saturday in Las Vegas, carding an impressive 9-under 62. This outstanding performance not only propelled him into a three-way tie for the lead in the Shriners Children’s Open but also set the stage for a potential dual victory in the same tournament within a single season.

This marked the second consecutive year that Kim recorded a 62 in the third round at the TPC Summerlin. In the previous season, this precise round led to his playoff triumph against Patrick Cantlay. It’s worth noting that this tournament is on the cusp of two seasons, as the PGA Tour transitions back to a calendar year schedule.

Adam Hadwin delivered a bogey-free round, showcasing exceptional performance on the par 3s, with more birdies than on the par 5s. His stellar play resulted in a 63, granting him a share of the lead alongside Kim. Joining them in this coveted position was Lanto Griffin, who uniquely arrived late to prominence. Despite being tied for the 36-hole lead, it wasn’t until the 13th hole that Griffin scored his first birdie. However, he rallied and managed to notch three birdies within a four-hole stretch, ultimately finishing with a 68 and matching the leaders at 15-under 198.

This tournament’s final round is far from a three-man showdown. K.H. Lee, with a solid 66, is among three players trailing by just one shot. The competition remains wide open, with an astounding 14 players within a three-shot margin of the lead, including J.T. Poston and Canadian Open champion Nick Taylor – a small consolation for both of them.

Poston showcased his mastery with a spectacular bunker shot on the 15th hole, parking it just 5 feet from the hole to secure a birdie and a share of the lead. On the par-5 16th, only 209 yards away, it appeared he was poised for another birdie at the very least. However, a single swing and an impulsive decision altered his fate. His ball landed on the green’s bank but swiftly rolled back into the water. Rather than employing the safety of the drop zone situated 95 yards away in the fairway, Poston opted to drop the ball in the right rough, hoping for a better angle to reach the left pin. Unfortunately, his wedge shot came out heavy, ricocheted twice off the rocks adjoining the green, and plunged back into the water. Compelled to recalculate his approach, Poston finally proceeded to the drop zone and hit a shot to within 15 feet of the hole.

Amidst his frustration, “Should have done that the first (expletive) time,” Poston muttered. Although he missed the subsequent putt, displaying a sarcastic thumbs-up as it lipped right of the hole, he managed to salvage a birdie and finish with a 68, landing him among the large group at 13-under.

Taylor, who was just one shot behind the leaders, missed a vital chance to birdie the par-5 16th hole. Unfortunately, on the par-3 17th, his tee shot veered left and found its way into the water hazard. This costly mistake resulted in a double bogey and constrained him to a 69, positioning him among those at 12-under 201.

Kim, a 21-year-old South Korean who spent most of his formative years in Australia, achieved two victories last season. However, he was unable to defend his title in the subsequent Wyndham Championship due to an ankle injury sustained during the British Open. Consequently, this marks Kim’s first PGA Tour title defense, and he is embracing the experience.

“It’s actually pretty cool,” remarked Kim. “Feeling like you won this event last year and having all the positive vibes associated with that victory. … Just to be able to come back, especially near the top of the leaderboard, gives me a chance on Sunday.”

Hadwin also distinguished himself with an eagle on the 17th hole, sinking a 30-foot putt to complete his impressive round of 63. The Canadian golfer, competing for the first time since the BMW Championship in August, stated that he felt reenergized rather than rusty. Having finished within the top 50 of the FedEx Cup standings, Hadwin secured his spot in all the $20 million events next year. However, his current world ranking of No. 56 means that he’s just outside the qualification zone for the Masters. Subsequently, this tournament presents an opportunity for him to make a statement and boost his ranking.

Griffin, on the other hand, has endured a series of injuries, including back surgery last July and a rib injury during his attempted return. Nevertheless, his strong finish on Saturday indicates his full recovery. With well-timed birdies towards the end of his round, Griffin expressed satisfaction, stating, “Not making a birdie until the 13th on a course where everyone is going low and making birdies – it’s nice to get a couple early to settle yourself down. However, making pars isn’t the end of the world either.”

Cameron Champ, who stood among the leaders after 36 holes, stumbled with a triple bogey early on, resulting in a disappointing 74 and a tie for 24th place.


AP golf:


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