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Saturday’s golf: Jackson's Brian Stuard in three-way tie for lead at Safeway Open

Michael Wagaman
Associated Press

Napa, Calif. – Brian Stuard closed with a scrambling birdie for a 6-under 66 and a share of the Safeway Open lead Saturday with James Hahn and Cameron Percy.

On a day when eight players held or shared the lead, the trio of Stuard, Hahn and Percy emerged in front despite all three running into trouble at various times at Silverado Resort.

Jackson's Brian Stuard, here at the Memorial in July,  finished 6-under 66 to land in a three-way tie heading into Sunday at the Safeway Open.

Stuard (Jackson/Oakland University), who began the day five shots off the lead, hit only 10 of 14 fairways off the tee and had six birdies, including three straight on the front nine. He made a 7-foot putt on the par-5 18th after finding the rough.

“If you drive it in the fairway, you’re going to give yourself a bunch of chances and I think that’s the No. 1 key for me,” Stuard said, adding that his putting has been the difference this week. “I didn’t putt well to finish the end of the year and this week I feel like I’m seeing the lines a little better, so it’s nice.”

Hahn hasn’t been as steady on the green and needed 28 putts in the third round, but made birdies on Nos. 15 and 16 for a 67.

“I just put myself out of position on the par 5s, something to work on,” Hahn said. “And it’s kind of a good thing that I’m not quite all there yet and hopefully I can put it all together tomorrow.”

Percy had a 68 to join the group at 16-under 200. He nearly took himself out of the hunt after bogeys on Nos. 11 and 14, but bounced back with birdies on two of the final three holes.

Second-round leader Sam Burns struggled to a 72 that left him tied with Kristoffer Ventura (66) and Harry Higgs (70) at 15 under.

Emiliano Grillo (65), Stewart Cink (65), Doug Ghim (69), D.J. Trahan (70) and Russell Knox (70) were 14 under.

The course continues to bend toward lower scores as temperatures have increased. Even shots coming out of the rough seemed to play differently.

“I think the ground has dried out a lot so the ball’s going farther in the air, but it’s also going farther when it lands, especially off the tees,” said Cink, who at 47 is attempting to become the oldest winner on the PGA Tour since Phil Mickelson won at Pebble Beach at 48 in 2019. “The rough is dried out, so it’s playing a little bit more unpredictable than it was before when it was still kind of damp. And the greens are still holding.”

Cink, Burns, Ventura, Knox, Higgs, Stuard, Hahn and Percy all took turns in front of the pack. Holding the lead was a different story.

Higgs, who on Friday became the third player in tournament history to make an albatross, briefly took the lead with a birdie on 10 just as Percy bogeyed 11 to drop a stroke back.

But Higgs couldn’t sustain the momentum and bogeyed 13, then parred the final five holes.

“Not my best,” Higgs said. “I had a stretch there, 8, 9 and 10 that I felt really good. Kept hitting good shots and kind of felt like I was going to for sure have the lead today. Fortunate enough, I’ve still got a great chance to win tomorrow.”

Mickelson (70) is well off the pace in his tune-up for next week’s U.S. Open at Winged Foot. At 8 under, Mickelson conceded he may not be ready for the major.

“This is the worst I’ve played in the last three months,” Mickelson said. “And it’s deceptive because I didn’t make a bogey, but I didn’t drive it well, I didn’t chip it well and I didn’t putt well. I turned a 64 into a 70.”

Burns had a rough start for the second consecutive round. The second-round leader bogeyed two of the first three holes, scrambled for par on No. 5 after hitting his drive into the trees then saved par again on the par-3 No. 7 after his tee shot went into the sand. Burns also bogeyed No. 11.

LPGA

Competitors since they were teenagers, Brooke Henderson and Nelly Korda they wound up tied for the lead going into a final round of the ANA Inspiration at Mission Hills that could be quite a show.

The 23-year-old Henderson, whose nine LPGA titles already are the most by a Canadian, tied the tournament record with a 30 on the front nine and settled for a 7-under 65. She is going for her second major.

Korda, the 22-year-old daughter of Grand Slam tennis champion Petr Korda, rallied with three birdies on the back nine for a 71 and joined Henderson at 12-under 204.

The No. 3 player in women’s golf, Korda has never had a better shot at her first major.

“It’s exciting,” Korda said. “It’s one of the reasons why you play golf is you play with the top players in the world, and playing for a major championship doesn’t get any better than that.”

They will be joined in the final group by Katherine Kirk, who quietly went about her business with a 67 that landed the Australian in the final group, two shots behind.

Also two shots behind were Mirim Lee (71) and Lexi Thompson (69), who was poised to make a run when she hit wedge to a foot for birdie on the ninth hole. That was her last birdie of the round. Even so, the 25-year-old Thompson was in good position to make another leap in Poppie’s Pond.

Ten players were separated by four shots, a group that included Carlota Ciganda at 9-under 207 and former Mission Hills winner Stacy Lewis another shot back. Both shot 67,

Also at 8-under 208 was U.S. Women’s Amateur champion Rose Zhang, who shot a 68. The 17-year-old won the Amateur last month over Gabriela Ruffels, who was at 6-under 210 in a strong showing by amateurs this week.

Tour Champions

Steve Stricker and Miguel Angel Jimenez shared the lead going into the final round of the Sanford International, with Fred Couples, Darren Clarke and Kevin Sutherland a shot behind after a low-scoring day.

The only player at at Minehaha Country Club set to play next week in the U.S. Open at Winged Foot, Stricker birdied the par-5 16th and par-4 18th for a 6-under 64 to post at 9-under 131.

Jimenez, the Spanish star tied for the lead with David Toms and Dicky Pride after the rainy first round, birdied the par-4 15th as well as 16 and 18 in a 66.

European Tour

South African golfer George Coetzee will take a one-stroke lead into the final round of the Portugal Masters after shooting 5-under 66 in the third round.

Coetzee entered the weekend eight shots behind Julien Guerrier. But the overnight leader bogeyed four holes on the day, and Coetzee made an eagle and four birdies to go with just one bogey to move to 11 under at Dom Pedro Victoria Golf Course in Vilamoura.

Guerrier and Masahiro Kawamura were joint second at one shot behind Coetzee.

Laurie Canter and Niklas Lemke were two shots back.