SUNRIVER, Ore. (AP) — Brad Bryant came off the course Saturday at the Jeld-Wen Tradition with a huge grin.
He had just shot a 5-under 67 to take a two-stroke advantage over Mike Reid into the final round.
Bryant padded his lead to go to 15 under at Crosswater Golf Club in central Oregon. He has stayed atop the leaderboard after shooting a career-best 10-under 62 in the opening round, matching a tournament record.
“I’d like to play tomorrow exactly like I played today. If I do that, I don’t care if I win or not,” he said. “If I play as well tomorrow as I did today and somebody beats me, they deserve it more than me.”
Reid birdied the par-4 No. 18 to finish with a 66 and go to 13 under in the fourth of five majors on the Champions Tour.
Bryant had back-to-back birdies on the 15th and 16th holes. He came close to another one on the par-3 No. 17, but his putt came to rest on the lip of the hole.
John Cook had a 68, putting him at 12 under going into Sunday’s final. Larry Mize was at 10 under after a third-round 70.
“Definitely could have been a little more tidy today,” Cook said. “But I’m happy with that.”
Bryant’s low opening round matched Tom Watson’s mark set in 2003 and Doug Tewell’s in 2001.
Bryant’s best finish of the year was fourth at the Dick’s Sporting Goods Open in June. He has four overall tour victories, his last coming at the Senior U.S. Open in 2007.
“That was one of the most solid rounds I’ve played all year,” Bryant said Saturday. “Actually, today was more encouraging than when I shot 62.”
Bryant was vying to become the first player to go wire-to-wire in a Champions Tour major since Tewell in the Tradition in 2001.
Reid has just one win on the Champions Tour, the 2005 Senior PGA Championship.
“I think this week things have come together,” he said. “Some of the promising signs are turning into good scores.”
Watson rebounded with a 69 on Saturday after a 74 the day before, but making a run at the leaders in the final round will be tough at 6 under.
Watson had one of the biggest galleries on the 7,533-yard course built in the shadow of Mount Bachelor. He has said this week that he’s encountered many well-wishers in the past month after losing in a playoff to Stewart Cink at the British Open.
After temperatures nearly hit 100 on Thursday, a cooling trend expected to continue through the weekend brought highs into the mid-80s.
Last year, Fred Funk shot a final-round 69 for a three-shot victory over Mike Goodes and his first win in a major on the tour.
Funk had a 73 Saturday and was 8 under after three rounds.
The Tradition started at Desert Mountain in Scottsdale in 1989 before moving to Superstition Mountain for a year in 2002. With the help of Oregon native Peter Jacobsen, the event moved again in 2003 to the Reserve Vineyards and Golf Club west of Portland, and in 2007 came to Crosswater.