Chris Stroud plays a shot on the 7th hole. He is winless on the PGA tour after nearly 200 events. (Stanley Chou / Getty Images)
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia — Chris Stroud and Ryan Moore overcame mistakes and bogeys on the back nine Saturday to take a share of the lead after the third round of the CIMB Classic.
Stroud started the day five strokes back but surged into contention after five birdies on the front nine — including four in a row — before hitting into the water on the 12th hole and carding two bogeys for a 4-under 68.
Moore (69) opened a three-shot lead on the back nine only to bogey four of five holes to give it right back. Both were on 12-under 204, one stroke ahead of their nearest rivals.
“There’s trouble everywhere,” Moore said. “It doesn’t take that bad of a shot to get in a very bad spot out here, with the rough the way it is, the fairways as narrow as they are.”
The tricky conditions led to huge momentum swings throughout the day at the PGA Tour event, with plenty of balls in the water and in the rough beneath the palm trees lining the course at the Kuala Lumpur Golf and Country Club.
Overnight leader Keegan Bradley looked nothing like the golfer who shot 65 and 66 in the first two rounds, carding 76 to fall to a share of sixth place.
There won’t be much room for mistakes on Sunday.
Eight players are within four shots of the lead, with Gary Woodland (67) and Kiradech Aphibarnrat (69) a stroke back in a tie for second.
Even Phil Mickelson, who this week called his swing “terrible” and said he sometimes has no idea where his drives are going, is back in contention, shooting a 68 to sit just five shots off the lead.
The back nine proved the most problematic for the top players on Saturday, with its narrow fairways and multitude of water hazards and bunkers.
Moore had six birdies through 10 holes, only to hit into the water on No. 12 and 16 on his rough back nine.
“It was almost two different days out there,” said the American, who is aiming for this third PGA Tour title. “I got really hot early making a lot of putts, making a lot of birdies and then turned into the backside and still continued some good play and then kind of hit a pretty rough stretch in the middle. I kind of made a mess of it.”
Bradley shanked drives to the left and right, finding himself in the water and under trees. On the greens, he left some birdie putts short and missed others by inches.
He finished his disappointing round with a double bogey and three bogeys on the back nine, plus another bogey on the front.
“Just didn’t play very well today, just was pretty ugly,” Bradley said.
Still, Bradley is just three shots off the pace and thinks he can turn it around. Kiradech, too, believes he has a good shot at capturing the title, even though he also wasted opportunities to take the lead on the back nine with a double bogey and a missed 5-foot birdie putt on the 17th.
The Thai golfer has a lot on the line — a win on Sunday would give him a two-year PGA Tour exemption, as well as invitations to the Masters, the PGA Championship and other top-tier tournaments.
Stroud, winless on the PGA Tour in nearly 200 events, believes he’s ready for a breakthrough. This is the first time he’s had a share of the lead through 54 holes.
“My coach and I sat down this past week and we talked hours about what I need to do to win a golf tournament,” he said. “I think I need to play one or two tournaments max in a row and just practice, practice, practice at home and put a lot of reps into the golf swing and get the golf swing a lot sharper than it usually is.”
His goal for Sunday is simple — keep the ball on the fairways.
“That’s what I’m really focusing on the most — keep the ball in front of me, let everybody else make mistakes.”
American Luke Guthrie stumbled at the end of the third round and wound up tied for the lead with Spain’s Rafa Cabrera-Bello in the BMW Masters at Shanghai.
Guthrie has led the European Tour event since his 65 in the opening round, and he had a three-shot lead at one point on the back nine at Lake Malaren. But his tee shot caught the bunker on the 16th, leading to a bogey. And he was in such an awkward spot on the 18th green that Guthrie felt his best option was to chip off the putting surface. He missed an 8-foot putt to take another bogey for an even-par 72.
Cabrera-Bello was far more efficient, keeping bogeys off his card in a round of 67. His final birdie on the par-3 17th turned out to be good enough for a share of the lead.
They were at 8-under 208, one shot ahead of Spain’s Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano (67).
Defending champion Suzann Pettersen struggled with three early bogeys but recovered for a 1-over 73 to maintain a four-shot lead in the LPGA Taiwan Championship at Yangmei.
The Norwegian dropped three shots over the first five holes but had three birdies and just one more bogey the rest of the way to finish three rounds at 6-under 210. Azahara Munoz (69), Sun Young Yoo (72) and Carlota Ciganda (72) were tied for second at Sunrise Golf and Country Club.
The second-ranked Pettersen has three LPGA Tour victories this year, winning in Portland, Ore., and France in consecutive starts last month. She also won a Ladies European Tour event this year in China.
Taiwanese star Yani Tseng, the 2011 winner, was 10 over after a 72. Winless in 41 LPGA Tour events since the 2012 Kia Classic, she has tumbled from first to 25th in the world ranking in seven months.
Kenny Perry bogeyed the final hole to drop into a five-way tie for the lead in the Champions Tour’s AT&T Championship at San Antonio.
The Charles Schwab Cup points leader followed his opening 65 with a 71 to match Mike Goodes, Bernhard Langer, Colin Montgomerie and Anders Forsbrand at 8 under.
Goodes had the round of the day, shooting a 63 on TPC San Antonio’s AT&T Canyons Course to jump 43 spots on the leaderboard. Montgomerie had a 68, and Langer and Forsbrand shot 69.
The top 30 on the money list Sunday will advance to the season-ending Charles Schwab Cup Championship next week at TPC Harding Park in San Francisco. Perry entered the regular-season finale 494 points ahead of second-place Langer in the race for a $1 million annuity.