(Reuters) – Tommy Fleetwood moved tantalizingly close to a breakthrough PGA Tour victory when he survived a battle of attrition to take a one-shot lead over Brendan Steele after the third round at the Honda Classic in Florida on Saturday.
Englishman Fleetwood birdied the final two holes for a three-under-par 67 at the water-lined PGA National, which year in and out plays as one of the toughest courses on tour.
“Of course it’s a big moment for me in my career if I could win on the PGA Tour. It’s absolutely what I want to do and I absolutely look forward to the challenge,” he said after posting a five-under 205 total.
Overnight American leader Steele battled to a 71 to stay very much in the hunt, while two other Englishmen, Lee Westwood and Luke Donald, trailed by two strokes.
Nine others were under par for the tournament and certainly not out of contention.
“Par is your friend out there, no matter what holes they are. There’s no let-up,” said Fleetwood, a five-times winner on the European Tour.
“The wind blew more constantly today. You’re constantly hitting in strong winds.
“Happy to be done with a good score. Yesterday I finished with a couple of three-putts. They started going in on the back nine today. I’ll take them when they come.”
Second-placed Steele hopes his playoff loss at the Sony Open in Hawaii last month has prepared him for the heat of being in contention.
“It’s where you want to be on Sunday. This course especially it’s going to come down to the last few holes,” he said, referring to the water waiting to gobble up any errant shot.
Westwood, at 46 seeking to become the event’s oldest winner, plotted his way to a 71 despite not being at his best.
“I didn’t have my A game today, struggled with my swing a little bit but ground it out and didn’t do too much damage,” said the former world number one.
“I don’t feel like two shots is much around this course. It’s a risk-reward golf course on steroids.”
American Grayson Murray had a hole-in-one at the 17th, where he struck a pitching wedge from 150 yards.
His fourth ace on tour helped him to a 70. He trailed Fleetwood by six shots.
(Reporting by Andrew Both in Cary, North Carolina; Editing by Daniel Wallis)