Friday's golf: Zalatoris, Day charge past Rahm to share lead at Farmers

Associated Press

San Diego — Will Zalatoris and Jason Day charged past Jon Rahm and Justin Thomas on Friday at Torrey Pines to share the third-round lead at the Farmers Insurance Open.

Zalatoris posted the day's best round with a 7-under 65, and two-time Farmers champion Day shot a 67. They were at 14 under heading to the final round of the tournament, which will finish Saturday to avoid a television conflict with the NFL's two conference championship games.

Will Zalatoris hits his tee shot on the 17th hole of the South Course during the third round of the Farmers Insurance Open.

Rahm and Aaron Rai were 13 under, and Thomas, Sungjae Im and Cameron Tringale were another shot back. There were 24 players within five shots of the co-leaders after an eventful moving day.

Zalatoris surged from six shots back after two rounds and moved into contention for his first career PGA Tour victory, yet his round could have been several strokes better if his putter had kept up with the rest of his formidable play. The 25-year-old missed several birdie putts, including a pair inside 5 feet, but stayed in the lead alongside several more accomplished pros.

Day, who won a playoff in 2018 to claim the Farmers title, finished his third round superbly with four birdies on the final six holes. The Australian former top-ranked pro buried a 27-foot birdie putt on the 16th and got firmly into contention on the course where he also won in 2015.

Rahm rebounded from a double bogey on the 10th and another bogey on the 12th to stay firmly in contention with a 72 on the course where he got his first PGA Tour win in 2017 and his first major victory at the U.S. Open last year.

Thomas and Rahm both finished the front nine with dramatic birdie putts. Thomas holed out from 41 feet, and Rahm hit his from nearly 38 feet to the thrilled roars of the gallery.

John Rahm of Spain hits out of the bunker on the 13th hole of the South Course during the third round of the Farmers Insurance Open.

But Thomas missed an 8-foot par putt on the 15th and then took a penalty stroke on the 17th when his drive went out of bounds before finishing his 73.

Rahm, Thomas and Adam Schenk shared the lead after two rounds, but Schenk faltered even more with a third-round 75.

Rai jumped into contention for his first career PGA Tour victory by finishing his 68 with back-to-back birdies. The Englishman and former Scottish Open champion is a six-time winner internationally.

Zalatoris began the third round six shots off the lead, and hold out from 39 yards for eagle on the second hole Friday. He made a 9-foot birdie putt on the fourth, but missed from inside 15 feet on the fifth and from inside 8 feet on the seventh.

After saving par on the 11th with an exceptional 40-foot shot from the rough to within 4 inches, Zalatoris barely missed a birdie putt from inside 17 feet on the 12th before missing a 3-footer on the 13th, a 12-footer on the 15th and a 14-footer on the 16th. Zalatoris then followed up an exceptional second shot on the 17th by badly missing a birdie from inside 4 feet, but finished his round by saving par from a bunker.

LPGA

A week-and-a-half into the 2022 LPGA Tour season, Danielle Kang has a new home. She has taken up residence at the top of the leaderboard with no indication of leaving.

A winner in the season opener in Orlando last week, Kang birdied her final two holes Friday for a 4-under 68 to catch good friend Lydia Ko (70) in the Gainbridge LPGA at Boca Rico.

Kang said she considers Ko to be her little sister. The two stand at 11-under 133 at the tournament’s midway point, four shots clear of U.S. Women's Open champion Yuka Saso (70) and England’s Jodi Ewart Shadoff (69).

Conditions were cooler, windier and tougher than they had been a day earlier in the LPGA’s first full-field event of the season. Ko, at 24 already a 16-time winner on the tour, considered her day to be a grind from start to finish. The rhythm to it was far different than a day earlier, when Ko had made nine birdies in an opening 63, one shot off the tournament record.

Kang, the 29-year-old American whose victory at the Tournament of Champions on Sunday was her sixth on tour, started on the 10th hole in the afternoon and was muddling along at 2 under through 16 holes, not making much happen. She’d missed a couple of short-range putts on the back nine, but did her best to keep a positive mindset.

Standing in the fairway at the par-5 eighth hole, her 17th of the day, she had a novel idea: Let’s get to double-digits under par. That would mean a birdie-birdie finish, so that’s what she produced.

Kang worked hard on her wedge play in the offseason, and spun a wedge to 7 feet to set up birdie at the eighth. She then closed with a 7-iron to 10 feet to add one more birdie before calling it an afternoon.

She has started 2022 with six consecutive rounds in the 60s. Friday, only Celine Boutier of France with a 67 shot lower.

Until breaking through at Lake Nona last week, Kang had gone 17 months without winning. Perhaps it is a good omen that the last time she had won, in the summer of 2020 when the LPGA returned to play from the COVID-19 pandemic, she won back-to-back in Ohio.

The stage is set perfectly to do that again. Not that she would let herself get so far ahead to begin thinking about Sunday in Boca.

Ko struggled last week on the greens at Lake Nona, which happens to be her home course. So she stuck a new putter in the bag for the three-hour drive south to Boca Raton. So far, so good. The name of the putter is a Ping Ketsch. Ko joked that it has been catching fire.

On the 14th hole, a long par 4 at which par is perfectly acceptable, Ko ran a 33-foot putt up the hill, her ball crashing into the back of the hole for birdie. She almost seemed embarrassed that it fell, but those are the things that happen when a player is on a run.

She joked to fellow competitor Lexi Thompson that the “smash factor” – which typically measures force on a drive – was higher on her putt than on her tee shot.

World Golf Hall of Fame member Karrie Webb, 47, making her first LPGA start since November 2020, shot 71 and made the cut, earning a tee time on the weekend. Those at 1-over 145 or better made it to weekend play. Nelly Korda, the No. 1 player in women's golf, had a 72 and was at 4-under 140, seven shots behind the leaders.

For a second consecutive weekend, temperatures are expected to cool as low as the 40s on Saturday, and colder on Sunday.

Ko sent her mother out Thursday to night to buy some handwarmers in preparation for the weather that loomed ahead, but the local supermarket was out of them.