White Sulphur Springs, W.Va. — Harold Varner and Kelly Kraft are looking to add to the crop of first-time winners on the PGA Tour in West Virginia.
Varner shot a 4-under 66 Saturday to tie Kraft at the top entering the final round of A Military Tribute at The Greenbrier.
Both are seeking their first tour wins in their 85th starts. Since this tournament debuted in 2010, there have been four first-time champions, but no third-round leader has won.
“I wish we could go play right now,” Varner said. “I’m pretty hungry. This is what you work for. This is what I get so pumped up to do.”
Varner had four back-nine birdies after 10 consecutive pars to catch Kraft, the second-round leader who let a four-stroke lead slip away and shot 1-under 69.
Both were at 14-under 196.
Varner’s best finish on tour was a tie for fifth at the OHL Classic in Mexico in 2016. He has one top-10 finish in each of the past two years and won the Australian PGA Championship in 2016.
“I guess this whole thing’s new to me because I’ve never had a lead going into the last day,” Varner said. “But I don’t really lack confidence. That’s never really been a problem. I just need to slow down and take it all in. Because there’s going to be something that happens tomorrow where I can learn and I can grow and I can get a lot better. So it goes back to keeping it in perspective.
“That was deep. Sorry.”
Kraft, who finished fifth in last year’s tournament, refused to get down on himself despite bogeys on two of his final three holes Saturday.
“I’m just going to stay patient tomorrow,” he said. “I hit a lot of good shots today.”
Fifteen golfers were within five shots of the lead. The tournament has been decided by two or fewer strokes every year and has gone to a playoff three times. The 2016 tournament was canceled after devastating floods.
The Old White TPC dried out on a sunny Saturday and scores weren’t as low as the first two days when rains softened the course and yielded eight rounds of 63 or better.
Kraft had a one-stroke lead entering the round, the first time he’s led after 36 holes on the PGA Tour.
He parred every hole on the front nine Saturday and his lead improved to four after birdie putts of 19 feet at No. 10 and 5 feet at No. 12 and holing a 40-foot pitch shot at No. 11.
Then he found two bunkers on the par-5 16th and made bogey, and found the greenside bunker and missed a 5-foot par putt on the par-3 18th.
Kraft said he struggled judging the speed of his putts.
“The greens got really kind of crusty and hard out there, different than the first couple days,” Kraft said. “And especially on the back nine, there were two or three greens that were just – they were borderline rolling too fast.”
Defending champion Xander Schauffele and Kevin Na were at 13 under. Both shot 65. Sam Saunders was alone in fifth place at 12 under after a 67.
Bubba Watson shot 65 and was among three players at 11 under. Watson hopes to add this tournament to his three other wins this season.
Watson wants to honor his late father, Gerry, a Green Beret who fought in the Vietnam War. Watson owns a vacation home at The Greenbrier Sporting Club. He and his wife, Angie, contributed significantly both in money and in volunteer work during local relief efforts after June 2016 floods killed 23 people statewide and forced the tournament to be canceled two weeks later.
“Big day tomorrow,” Watson said.
Anirban Lahiri of India and Webb Simpson trailed Kraft by a stroke entering the third round. Lahiri was bogey-free over the first two rounds but bogeyed the first two holes Saturday, shot 71 and dropped three strokes behind. Simpson shot 76 to fall eight strokes back.
The top four players not already exempt among the top 12 finishers will earn spots in the British Open at Carnoustie starting July 19.
Sei Young Kim shot an 8-under-par 64 in the third round of Thornberry Creek LPGA Classic to tie the 54-hole record of 24 under and take a commanding eight-stroke lead.
Kim, who had a 63 on Thursday and a 65 on Friday, got rolling with an eagle on No. 3 and added six birdies. A birdie on No. 16 tied Annika Sorenstam’s 24 under at the Mizuno Classic in Japan in 2003. After Kim missed a long birdie putt on the par-3 17th, she hit her tee shot on the 390-yard 18th into the left rough. Her approach was well short of the hole, and her birdie putt missed badly. She made a testy putt to save par.
Kim will take aim at Sorenstam’s 72-hole record of 27-under par, set at the Standard Register Ping in 2001 in Phoenix. Kim will need a 4-under 68 on Sunday to break that record.
Amy Yang is a distant second at 16 under after shooting a 5-under 67. Eight players are within two shots of Yang but 10 shots of the record-setting Kim.
South African golfer Erik van Rooyen left behind his overnight co-leaders to grab a commanding four-shot lead going into the final day of the Irish Open.
Van Rooyen began the third round in a three-way tie for the lead, but stormed to the turn in just 29 shots on his way to a superb 6-under-par 66 to finish 14 under.
He’s four shots ahead of Joakim Lagergren of Sweden (69) and Ryan Fox of New Zealand (70).
Former Masters champion Danny Willett (69) was five shots off the pace after recovering from a poor start with the aid of four birdies in a row on the back nine, and Lee Westwood was seven behind after a 70.
Defending champion Jon Rahm of Spain was eight shots off the lead after a 67 which included a front nine of 30, and tournament host Rory McIlroy was 13 adrift following a 72.
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