HONOLULU (AP) The worst putt of the day for Zac Blair cost him the lead at the Sony Open on Saturday. It probably won’t cost him that much sleep.
Blair was still tied for the lead with Brandt Snedeker. He was hitting fairways and greens, the key to playing Waialae. And he has never had a better chance than this to win on the PGA Tour.
Despite missing a 2-foot birdie putt on the par-5 18th, Blair had a 6-under 64 after another round of pristine weather on the shores north of Waikiki Beach. Snedeker missed birdie putts of 10 feet and 12 feet on the last two holes for a 66.
They were at 194, one shot ahead of Kevin Kisner (66).
”I feel like if I can keep doing what I’m doing, getting the ball in play, getting in on the green, make a few putts,” he said before pausing. ”I’ve missed a couple of shorter ones, but it’s been good.”
The real challenge will be Sunday.
Snedeker is a seven-time winner on the PGA Tour who has been atop the leaderboard after each round. Kisner might be the hottest player in golf not named Jordan Spieth. This is the third time he’s been in the final group in his last four starts.
Snedeker remembers his first time in the last group as a rookie at Torrey Pines in 2007.
”I can definitely relate,” he said. ”The one difference was I had Tiger Woods teeing off right (in front of) me, so that was a little bit disconcerting, to say the least. And I don’t think Zac views me as Tiger Woods, so I think he’ll be OK. The nerves are going to be there. He’s got a great caddie in Andy Martinez to kind of help him get through it, and the golf course sets up really well for him. So I don’t see him having too many issues.”
Si Woo Kim, the 20-year-old from South Korea, finished strong with a birdie and an eagle for a 65 that put him two back.
Blair, whose father played briefly on the PGA Tour in the 1980s, wasn’t the only player to struggle on the 18th. Jeff Overton was poised to shoot 62 when he took four shots to get in from a greenside bunker on the 18th and made bogey for a 64.
He was five shots behind. Fabian Gomez of Argentina had a 65 and was four back.
Saturday at least produced a little separation. Two dozen players were within five shots of the lead when the third round began. Now there are 12. That includes Matt Kuchar, who closed with six straight birdies for a 62 – a card that included two bogeys.
Snedeker started the third round with a one-shot lead and kept at least a share of it until Blair, playing in the group in front of him, rolled in an 18-foot birdie on the 15th hole. By then it appeared to be a three-man battle among Snedeker, Blair and Kisner.
Blair stayed near the leaders all day, catching Snedeker briefly with a birdie at the ninth and another at the 13th.
”I obviously don’t hit it as far as most of the guys out here,” Blair said. ”But at the end of the day, I think it just kind of comes down to getting the ball in the hole, and if you’re able to do that, you obviously seem to be finding yourself at the top of the leaderboard more often than not.”
Kisner knows that better than most.
He was in the final threesome at the HSBC Champions that Russell Knox won in Shanghai, and then won with a three-shot lead going into the final round at Sea Island. He tied for the lead with a 40-foot birdie putt on the 13th and stayed there with a tough par save at the 15th.
It was 5-iron at the 17th he would like to have back. Kisner tried to play a cut into the wind and it didn’t cut. It wound up over the hospital tents, and it led to his only bogey of the round. A birdie from behind the 18th green at least put him in the last group, and that’s where he wanted to be.
”I think it’s huge tomorrow so you know what’s going on,” he said.
With 87 players making the cut, there was a Saturday cut of top 70s and ties that knocked out Davis Love III and 12 others. Love was among three players who are in the Champions Tour season debut next week on the Big Island, and the other two nearly missed the cut. Fred Funk, who turns 60 this year, birdied his final hole to make it on the number. Vijay Singh, who started four shots out of the lead, was on the cut line until making a long birdie putt on the 17th.
Singh, who turns 53 next month and could have become the PGA Tour’s oldest winner in history, shot 73 and was 11 shots behind.