KAPALUA, Hawaii (Reuters) - Canadian Mike Weir, bidding for his ninth PGA Tour title, retained his one-shot lead in Saturday's third round at the season-opening Mercedes-Benz Championship.
A stroke ahead of the pack overnight, Weir held off strong challenges by compatriot Stephen Ames, Swede Daniel Chopra and American Jonathan Byrd with a five-under-par 68.
The left-hander got up and down from just short of the green at the par-five last for his fifth birdie of the day and a 13-under total of 206 at the Kapalua Resort's Plantation Course.
American Nick Watney, the first-round leader, was alone in second place after shooting a six-birdie 67 with Chopra (67) and Byrd (69) a further stroke back in a tie for third.
Ames carded a 70 to lie fifth at 10 under, one ahead of world number three Jim Furyk who was among a group of four tied for sixth after firing a best-of-the-day 66.
Twelve players were bunched within five strokes of the lead in the elite event which brings together the title-holders from the previous PGA Tour season.
Former Masters champion Weir birdied the fifth and ninth to reach the turn at 10 under overall, tied for the lead with playing partner Ames.
Ames stumbled at the 10th, running up a bogey there after missing the green in two, but Weir was twice caught by Chopra before breaking clear over the closing holes.
The Canadian saved par at the 13th after finding a greenside bunker with his approach. After splashing out, he coolly sank a 10-footer to stretch his bogey-free run to 38 holes.
"I didn't get a chance to do a whole lot of work in the off-season and I came in here with not too high expectations," Weir told reporters after covering the back nine in three under.
"Things have been clicking probably a little better than I expected. It's feeling pretty good right now."
Furyk, the 2001 champion at Kapalua, was delighted after vaulting up the leaderboard with five birdies in the last seven holes.
"I really got the putter moving on the back side," the 37-year-old American said after reaching 17 of 18 greens in regulation.
"I played very, very well for the last two days but both days on the front nine I didn't make very many putts. I was able to turn it around today on the back nine."
Defending champion Vijay Singh, who has been working hard to revamp his swing, birdied three of the last five holes for a blemish-free 67 to climb into a three-way tie for 10th.
"I'm feeling good and the golf swing is feeling really, really good, so that's a plus," he said.
Writing by Mark Lamport-Stokes in Los Angeles; Editing by Martin Petty