A 3-under-par 69 allowed Justin Lower to retake the lead in windy, firm conditions at the Fortinet Championship in Napa, Calif., on Saturday.
Lower, who led after a round of action Thursday, had five birdies against two bogies in grabbing the pole position headed into Sunday’s final round. It was a round of minimizing damage, culminating in a birdie on 18.
“I just tried to really keep it as simple as I could, keep it in play, keep it in the fairway because I really think you can score from the fairway,” Lower said. “It’s very tough to score from the rough, especially with the pins tucked the way they are.”
Lower is 13-under with a 203 after three rounds.
Whether he holds on to win Fortinet or not, Lower is in position to earn his first ever top-five finish at a PGA Tour event. His previous best results have been a tie for eighth in the Barbasol Championship and a tie for 10th in the Zurich Classic of New Orleans.
Lower gained full playing status two weeks ago when the PGA suspended six players who departed for the Saudi-backed LIV Golf circuit.
“Yeah, I’ve never (been in this position),” Lower said. “I’m sure I’ll be nervous, for sure, but just part of it. I mean, it’s why we play. Yeah, it’s just, I don’t know, playing on the PGA Tour with a chance to win, it’s pretty cool.”
Max Homa, who is defending his title at the Fortinet, is tied for second a stroke behind Lower with England’s Danny Willett. Both golfers carded par-72s.
Homa recorded two birdies and two bogies Saturday.
“Weather made it tricky,” Homa said. “Didn’t putt it well. If I would have just putted half decent, shoot 3 under, I would think. But I’m proud of the way I kept swinging, I didn’t get too impatient and kept myself in the golf tournament.”
Also in contention with rain expected tomorrow is South Korea’s Byeong Hun An, who shot a 1-under 71 and sits two strokes behind Lower in fourth place.
“I’m still hitting it pretty good, but I feel like I’m rolling it decent,” Hun An said. “Tomorrow’s going to be a rainy day, so hopefully my long game will help.”
Tied in fifth place at 10-under are Davis Thompson (65), Paul Haley II (66), Canada’s Adam Svensson (67) and Matt Kuchar (70).