(Reuters) – Tony Finau picked up five strokes on the back nine and grabbed a one-shot lead over Webb Simpson, who celebrated a hole in one, in the third round of the Phoenix Open on Saturday.
Finau, a big fan of the late Kobe Bryant, dropped in three birdies and an eagle in five holes to shoot a sizzling nine-under 62 under crystal blue skies to go to 16-under 197 in his bid for a second PGA Tour win.
“I gave myself a lot of looks and I was able to capitalize on those looks, ” Finau, who had four birdies on the front nine before the key run between the 12th and 16th holes that included an eagle at the par-five 13th, told PGA Tour Radio.
He also had a birdie at the 16th hole while wearing his Bryant Lakers jersey and narrowly missed another at the 17th in a bogey free round.
“I had a perfect number for a sand wedge and go ahead and fire right at the pin,” Finau told CBS Television.
“Damn near made it. That would have been pretty sweet with the Kobe jersey on. But I like that shot. That was pretty nice.”
Simpson, whose ace came at the 12th, stood deadlocked with Finau until a bogey at the 17th left him at seven-under 64 for the day.
“Kind of made a disaster of it,” Simpson said of his play at 17, “but to shoot even par in round one and have a chance to win tomorrow, that’s just icing on the cake.”
He called the hole-in-one “a perfect seven iron, 180 yards” that he didn’t see drop.
Simpson also had a bogey on seven to go with seven birdies and the ace.
Second round leader J.B. Holmes (70) and fellow American Hudson Swafford (66) were tied for third at 14-under 199 with Xander Schauffele (66), Adam Long (66) and Scott Piercy (68) a stroke back.
Holmes, who was one stroke ahead of Wyndham Clark after Friday’s play, finally righted himself after an up-and-down round. He skied to one over for the day after his third bogey at the 12th but collected birdies at the 14th and 15th that left him the hunt.
Clark fell seven shots off the pace after a three-over 74 that included four bogeys and a birdie.
(Reporting by Gene Cherry in Salvo, North Carolina; Editing by Andrea Ricci)