Williamson takes 1-shot lead at Travelers

Jay Williamson, Third Round, Travelers Championship
Fred Beckham/AP
Jay Williamson finished second and earned $648,000.

CROMWELL, Conn. (AP) — Jay Williamson would like to get back to playing PGA Tour events full-time. He's one day away.

Playing on a sponsor exemption in the Travelers Championship, Williamson shot a third-round 67 Saturday for a one-stroke lead over Hunter Mahan after the third round. If he can hang on, he'll get back his Tour card and be the first player to win on the PGA and Nationwide Tours in the same year since Jason Gore in 2005.

(Click here to see photos from round three.)

"My mind-set all week has been I'm just really happy to be here," he said. "It's great not being on the other tour right now. Now I've really got an opportunity. If I can get within nine holes left with a chance, who knows what can happen."

The 40-year-old won the Nationwide Tour's Fort Smith Classic in Arkansas in May and ranks seventh on that tour's money list with $153,249 in earnings. He'd take home a cool $1 million with a win.

Williamson bested his second-round co-leader David Toms, and first-round leader Mahan over the final four holes to finish 11-under par.

"I wasn't really looking at the leaderboards," he said. "I figured if I could just keep making birdies, making good swings, I've got 18 holes and we'll figure it out tomorrow."

So far this week, he has hit 36 of 42 fairways and 42 of 54 greens in regulation.

He hit an 8-foot birdie putt on the par-4 No. 15 to go 11-under and made par the rest of the way, nearly chipping in for birdie on the 18th.

"I don't usually get excited on the golf course," he said. "But if that ball would have gone in, I don't know what I would have done."

Williamson graduated from nearby Trinity College in Hartford, where he played baseball and hockey. He said he didn't even know this Tour event existed when he was in school.

Now he's playing for an exemption through 2009.

"There's a lot riding on this, obviously, if I really sat there and thought about it, I may be overwhelmed."

Toms, a 12-time winner on Tour, including the 2001 PGA Championship, has five top-10 finishes this year. But he bogeyed the par-3 16th, and he fell two back after his drive on the signature 17th hole found the water.

His 69 was good enough for third place a stroke behind Mahan, who shot a 67.

"I'm in good shape for tomorrow," Toms said. "I just have to keep playing. I feel I can play this golf course well."

So can Mahan, who finished second here a year ago. He had a tournament-best 62 Thursday and hit 71 on a windy Friday. He said there is just something about the course that brings out the best in his game.

"You just see the greens a little better than in most places," he said. "You see your tee shots better, the yardage seems better, just everything is easier for you."

Williamson was trailing by one when he birdied No. 15. After Toms and Mahan bogeyed the 16th, he saved par to take sole possession of the lead.

Fred Funk, a gallery favorite, shot a 67 to finish alone in fourth place. Funk has already won this year on two tours, taking the PGA Mayakoba Classic in March, a month after winning the Turtle Bay championship on the Champions Tour.

"It's nice to have options," he said Saturday.

Pat Perez and Nick O'Hern were four back at 7-under. O'Hern, who shot a 66 Saturday, has never won on tour, but finished second at last season's Booz Allen Classic, which also came just after the U.S. Open.

"The thing about this week is that everything is going to seem a bit easier," O'Hern said.

Vijay Singh also shot himself back into contention with a 66. He hit birdies on Nos. 2 and 3, bogeys on Nos. 4 and 5, and then hit his second shot on the par-5 6th hole to within 5 feet of the pin and made an eagle.

"I told my caddie we need to shoot at least six-under to be back in it," he said. "It's not impossible to catch but it's up to me what I'm going to do tomorrow."

Stewart Cink was within three shots of the lead when he imploded on the par-4 15th hole. He lost his drive in the woods, had to take a drop after hitting his second drive in almost the same spot, had another penalty stroke, and eventually shot a 10.

Mahan also went right on the 15th, but his shot hit the cart path and bounced left missing a spectator by inches before landing in a green-side bunker. From there, he managed to save par.

"It's a feast-or-famine hole," Mahan said. "It's a great, great hole — risk, reward."

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