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Dufner has Heritage lead

04/16/2017, 12:17am EDT
By ASSOCIATED PRESS

Golfer uses 2 eagles, Garcia for 3rd-round surge


Jason Dufner plays his tee shot on the fifth hole, where he chipped in from about 100 feet for his second eagle of the third round on Saturday in Hilton Head Island, S.C. GETTY IMAGES

HILTON HEAD ISLAND, S.C. — Jason Dufner took more than a solid showing away from the Masters last week. He took inspiration from winner Sergio Garcia.

Dufner finished 33rd in the year’s first major, things getting away from late in the final round a week ago.

But he took something from Garcia managing his expectations and letting his game show through. Dufner thinks that’s why he’s got a one-shot lead heading to the final round of the RBC Heritage.

Dufner had two eagles on the way to a 6-under-par 65 to move past Graham DeLaet.

Dufner, at 13 under, said he entered Harbour Town Golf Links with low expectations, deciding he had gone through too many tournaments overthinking how he was supposed to play or whose expectations he was supposed to live up to.

“That really gets in the way of playing well to be honest with you,” said Dufner, the 2013 PGA Championship winner. “So I think I maybe learned a little bit from the champion last week, where he kind of lowered his expectations, and got out of his way, so to speak, and let his talent and his game plan take it from there.”

Dufner’s talent was on display, particularly on Harbour Town’s par-5s.

He blasted a 215-yard approach on the second hole to 11 feet for his first eagle. He was short of the fifth green in two, then chipped in from about 100 feet for his second eagle. On No. 15, the course’s final long hole, Dufner settled for birdie, part of three in a row on the back nine that took him into the lead.

Dufner plays Harbour Town often, but without much success. His best finish was a tie for 14th and only once in seven previous fourth rounds has shot in the 60s.

He is chasing his fifth PGA Tour title — and just the second since winning the Wanamaker Trophy at Oak Hill four years ago.

Dufner said he took confidence from his Masters performance and has carried that into this week.

“This golf course has always been a good set up for me,” Dufner said. “I haven’t had amazing results here, but I’ve been pretty consistent. We’ll see how it goes tomorrow.”

DeLaet was tied with Dufner heading into his final hole, but three-putted No. 18 from 35 feet to fall back. Still, it was the Canadian’s third consecutive sub-70 round after having just five in five previous appearances here.

DeLaet is seeking his first tour win and knows it will take a mental effort to keep him straight. “Obviously, this is the one thing that’s kind of missing,” DeLaet said. “So there’s going to be some battles [inside] that I’m going to have to deal with.”

Kevin Kisner and Webb Simpson were at 11 under. Kisner shot a 66, and Simpson — the former U.S. Open champ — had a 68.

Kisner followed up his 64 with a second straight bogey- free round at Harbour Town. The last of his five birdies — a 30-footer on No. 17 — pushed him into the tie with Simpson.

Simpson was the hottest player on the course when the round began, going 4-under in his first six holes including an eagle-3 at the par-5 No. 5. Then Simpson cooled off, with 11 pars and a bogey on No. 16 that dropped him two shots behind.

Ian Poulter, in a chase to stay on tour, shot a 69 to stay in fifth. He had three birdies on the final five holes before the turn to share the lead with Simpson for a time.

But on No. 10 he hit his drive left in the water, then landed his second tee shot along the water line where an alligator — perhaps miffed by the first water ball — stared down the Englishman known for his colorful outfits. Poulter tried to set up, but the gator would not relent until the caddie of playing partner Simpson charged the reptile.

The alligator retreated to safer waters and Poulter took double bogey.

Poulter, playing on a medical extension, needs to earn $145,000 or 117 FedEx Cup points in the next two weeks to keep his playing privileges intact. He’s in good because fifth place pays $260,000.

JANG LEADS LPGA EVENT: Su-Yeon Jang heads into the final round of the Lotte Championship playing bogey-free golf, finishing the third round with a 7-under 65 for a three-stroke lead in Kapolei, Hawaii.

The 22-year-old sponsor invite from South Korea took the lead during the completion of the rain-delayed second round Friday morning and opened a cushion that afternoon. She had a 17-under 199 total — two strokes off the tournament record for 72 holes — at Ko Olina Golf Club.

Cristie Kerr and Alena Sharp — the 35-year-old Canadian looking for her first LPGA Tour victory — were tied for second. Kerr had a 62 to tie Lizette Salas’ tournament record in 2013. Kerr, who turns 40 this year, played the back nine in 29, with birdies on seven of her final eight holes.

“I was just kind of being myself,” said Kerr, who had eight putts on her last eight holes. “Yeah, everybody says being in the zone. I just kind of stayed out of my own way today, which is what I have to do to have a chance tomorrow.

“I stayed in the moment and started walking them in.”

Sharp stayed with Jang, birdie for birdie, until a bogey on the final hole left her with a 66. She was just one back after sinking a 15-footer from the fringe on the 16th.

Sharp has not won in 240 LPGA starts, but is coming off her best year. The only LPGA player with more starts without a win in this field is Becky Morgan. She is tied for 10th, seven shots back.

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