Merritt leads by three, Spieth in the hunt

Sat Apr 18, 2015 7:43pm EDT
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(Reuters) - Unheralded American Troy Merritt moved one step closer to his maiden PGA Tour title by claiming a three-stroke lead after Saturday's third round of the RBC Heritage in South Carolina.

Merritt, ranked 249th in the world and making his 86th tour start, followed his course record-tying 61 in the second round with a 69 for a 54-hole total of 14-under-par 199 on the Harbour Town Golf Links on Hilton Head Island.

The 29-year-old began the round with a four-shot lead and birdied the second and third before running into trouble at the par-four eighth.

"I was hitting the ball just fine all day and then I tugged a six-iron and watched it sail into the water and make a sensational splash," said Merritt, who made double-bogey.

"I felt good over the putts and I hit some good ones that didn’t go in. It was pretty stress free for the most part."

Tied for second on 11 under par were defending champion Matt Kuchar, who shot a 68, and fellow Americans Brendon Todd (63) and Kevin Kisner (67).

Kuchar, who made six birdies, was held back by a bad ricochet at the par-three seventh.

"I played some pretty good golf but got a bad break," he said. "I hit a beautiful shot in but it caught a limb and it ended up costing me a double bogey."

One more shot back were 2010 winner Jim Furyk (68), Brice Garnett (65) and Branden Grace of South Africa (66).   Continued...

Troy Merritt tees off on the second hole during the third round of the RBC Heritage at Harbour Town Golf Links. Mandatory Credit: Joshua S. Kelly-USA TODAY Sports