Brooks Koepka takes a tee shot on the ninth hole during the third round of the Frys.com Open on Saturday at the CordeValle Golf Club in San Martin, Calif. (Robert Laberge / Getty Images)
San Martin, Calif. — On a day of low scoring, Brooks Koepka kept up his end of the bargain and stayed in the lead at the Frys.com Open.
In his first regular PGA Tour event, Koepka rolled in two birdie putts to start his round Saturday and drove the par-4 17th green for another birdie. It added to a 4-under 67 and a two-shot lead over George McNeill and Jason Kokrak going into the final round at CordeValle.
A win would mean more than just a trip to the Masters for Koepka.
The 23-year-old Floridian started the year with no status on any tour, and since then has earned membership on the Challenge Tour and European Tour. A victory Sunday would give him a two-year exemption on the PGA Tour, and keep him from having to reload the pages in his passport. He already has played in 15 countries this year, with three victories on the Challenge Tour.
“The Challenge Tour prepared me pretty well,” Koepka said. “Learning how to win is a big deal.”
CordeValle was set up for low scoring on a Saturday of ample sunshine and very little wind.
McNeill made 10 birdies in his round of 62 that put him in the last group with Koepka. McNeill is a two-time winner on the PGA Tour. He has never played in the Masters because both wins were opposite-field events that didn’t award full FedEx Cup points.
“I’m going for the record to win the most times without qualifying,” McNeill said.
That’s no longer the case.
The Frys.com Open is the first event on the 2013-14 PGA Tour schedule, which has gone to a wraparound season for the first time in history. It’s the start of the FedEx Cup season, offering full points, meaning the winner goes to Augusta National.
Kokrak started his day by holing out from 129 yards in the first fairway for eagle, and he nearly ended his third round the same way. He settled for a short birdie putt and a 68 that kept him in the game.
Koepka was at 15-under 198. He has played every major once except the Masters, though this is his first regular PGA Tour start. He was between stops in Scotland (Dunhill Links) and Shanghai (BMW Masters) when he received a sponsor exemption to the Frys.com Open.
Jimmy Walker also had a 62 and was three shots behind with Robert Garrigus (68) and Vijay Singh, the 50-year-old Fijian making his first PGA Tour start in nearly two months. Singh hit driver on the par-4 17th hole up the back of the green, back down the slope to about 2 feet for an eagle. That carried him to a 65.
Justin Hicks (Wyandotte) shot his third straight 68 and is at 9-under 204.
Ryo Ishikawa also holed out from the fairway at No. 10 and had a 67. He was among those five shots behind, still in the mix but needing something low to have any chance the way the leaders are playing.
“I don’t think you can play overly aggressive,” Koepka said. “You can’t play not to lose, either. It’s conservatively aggressive.”
Lexi Thompson shot a 5-under 66 to take a three-shot lead over South Korea’s Ilhee Lee after the third round of the LPGA Malaysia.
The 18-year-old American had five birdies in her bogey-free round for a 17-under total of 196. Lee held the overnight lead but mixed three birdies with two bogeys for a 70. Suzann Pettersen was another three strokes back after a 67, tied for third with Shanshan Feng of China.
Thompson is aiming for her second career tour title and first since the Navistar LPGA Classic in 2011.
Russ Cochran shot his second straight 6-under 66 to take a two-stroke lead after the second round of the Champions Tour’s SAS Championship in Cary, N.C.
Defending champion Bernhard Langer, Kirk Triplett and David Frost were tied for second. They each shot their second straight 67.
Scott Jamieson equaled a European Tour record by shooting a 60, finishing two strokes behind leader Paul Waring after three rounds of the Portugal Masters.
Jamieson made 11 birdies for a 11-under total of 199. The Scot made par on the final hole after missing a putt that would have given him the unprecedented 59. Instead, he is the 18th golfer in European Tour history to shoot 60.