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Saturday’s golf: Russell Henley with 67 soars to 3-shot lead at Shadow Creek

Doug Ferguson
Associated Press

North Las Vegas, Nev. — Russell Henley left everyone in his wake with three straight birdies to start the back nine, pivotal in turning a four-shot deficit into a three-shot lead by the end of the day in the CJ Cup at Shadow Creek.

He is going for his fourth PGA Tour victory.

He has never had a lead this large with 18 holes to play.

Russell Henley tees off at the fifth hole during the third round of the CJ Cup golf tournament Saturday at Shadow Creek Golf Course in North Las Vegas.

And what Saturday made him realize was how quickly it can turn around at Shadow Creek — for him and the four players immediately behind him.

“I’ve got to just keep my head down and play a good round for me,” Henley said after a 5-under 67. “There’s so much golf to be played. This is just a break we’re taking, and I’m just going to try to keep doing it.”

He did enough on another still, quiet, warm day. And he had plenty of help from the other two players in his group.

Xander Schauffele, who had a three-shot lead going into the weekend, had a pair of late bogeys and failed to capitalize on the par 5s in his round of 74. Tyrrell Hatton didn’t make a birdie until the final hole in a 73. Of the top 25 players, they were the only two who shot over par.

Henley’s putting has been a great fit for the firm, glass-like greens of Shadow Creek. He leads the field in the most important putting category, and it has carried him to only the second 54-hole lead of his PGA Tour career.

He was at 15-under 201.

Lanto Griffin, who won his first PGA Tour event a year ago at the Houston Open, found the water off the tee on the par-5 18th and made bogey and still managed a 66. He was at 12-under 204 along with Talor Gooch (69), Jason Kokrak (68) and Schauffele, still in the mix despite a sloppy Saturday.

Hatton was in the group five shots behind with Justin Thomas (68) and Jason Day, who had a 66 as the former world No. 1 tries to end more than two years without a victory.

Henley started to close the gap when he got up-and-down from a bunker in front of the green on the par-5 seventh, and Schauffele missed the green on the par-3 eighth and took bogey.

And when they made the turn, Henley took off.

He holed a 25-foot birdie putt on No. 10, hit driver just through the green on the reachable par-4 11th hole to set up a simple up-and-down for another birdie, and then hit his approach to just inside 5 feet on No. 12 for a third straight birdie.

Henley closed with six straight pars, missing chances on the two par 5s, but no one could catch him.

But he knows what can happen, having flipped his fortunes on Saturday.

“Anybody can come at me,” Henley said. “You can go low out here. The greens are great and it’s gettable, but you’ve got to play well to do that. You’ve got to do everything well.”

Schauffele was hopeful of at least finishing his round at par, and that didn’t go his way, either. He went long on the par-3 17th into rough so deep he could barely keep it on the green, leading to his fourth bogey. And he went just over the back of the 18th green in two, again in rough facing a downhill chip that he rolled all the way to the fringe.

Schauffele likes to talk about “strokes gained attitude,” and it was a struggle for him with rounds that stretching close to six hours at Shadow Creek because of deep rough, limited marshals and plenty of searching.

Sung Kang knows the feeling. He took an 11 on the par-4 second hole, which included two lost balls when he spent more than three minutes looking and came up empty. He also hit a few backward trying to escape trouble. Nothing worked.

Schauffele wasn’t that bad. It just felt like it.

“I was trying to figure out what was worse, the pace of play or my quality of golf,” he said. “It was kind of a tie today. Not to be a sour person, but just one of those days. Today was my bad day for the week. Got it out of the way before Sunday. I guess I’m in a familiar place being three back now.”

Schauffele has been trailing going into the final round in all four of his PGA Tour victories.

Henley’s last victory was in 2017 at the Houston Open, where he came from four shots behind in the final round. Now he has a cushion at Shadow Creek, and a hot putter on putting surfaces he loves.

Tour Champions

While Phil Mickelson got most of the attention going into the Dominion Energy Charity Classic as he tries to open his senior career with consecutive victories, Mike Weir was a little better on a 36-hole day after rain washed out play Friday. The Canadian shot 68-63 to reach 13 under and take a three-stroke lead over Mickelson into the final round at The Country Club of Virginia.

“I’m super happy with the way I played today,” Weir said. “My mindset going into today, knowing we had 36, I wanted to get in a nice rhythm for the day because there’s so many holes. If you get in a nice rhythm, you can kind of ride it and I did that. I kind of stumbled a bit on my 18th hole the first round, but maybe that gave me a jump start to just like not be too bothered and just say, `Hey, I’m playing good and let’s just keep the pedal down.’”

Mickelson shot 68-66. He won his PGA Tour Champions debut at Ozarks National in August.

“Having carts makes playing 36 a lot easier,” Mickelson said. “I certainly enjoyed the day and don’t feel all beat up like we normally would. I thought it went OK. I let a lot of shots go and I’m going to go work on it now,, but I’m in a good position heading into tomorrow and hopefully I’ll put together a good round.”

Weir won the 2003 Masters for the biggest of his eight PGA Tour titles. He was asked if he could remember the last time he slept on a lead.

Fellow major champion Retief Goosen was third at 8 under with Brandt Jobe. They each shot 68-68.

Bernhard Langer, the first-round leader after a 67, was 7 under with Wes Short Jr. (69-68) after a second-round 70.

Ernie Els, the 50-year-old former major champion coming off his second victory of the season last week in North Carolina, shot 72-66 to get to 6 under.

Jim Furyk, another 50-year-old former major champion who won in his first two senior starts, was 5 under after rounds of 71 and 68 alongside Mickelson and defending champion Miguel Angel Jiménez.

Jiménez was 1 under, shooting 74-69.

European Tour

English golfer Matt Wallace opened up a three-stroke lead after the third round of the Scottish Championship on the European Tour after shooting 6-under 66.

Wallace birdied three of his last five holes to complete a bogey-free round at Fairmont St. Andrews and pull clear of countryman Garrick Porteous, who also shot 66 in the next-to-last group.

Wallace started the day tied for the lead with Spain’s Adrian Otaegui, who shot 70 and dropped four strokes off the pace.

The only other player within five shots of Wallace is Sean Crocker of the United States, after his 67.

The 51st-ranked Wallace is a four-time European Tour winner. Three of those victories came in 2018.