(Reuters) - Defending champion Jimmy Walker seized control of the Sony Open on Saturday with a third-round 62 that gave him a two-stroke advantage and a shot at redemption at the Waialae Country Club in Honolulu, Hawaii.
Walker blew a golden chance of capturing last week’s Hyundai Tournament of Champions in neighboring Kapalua, where he led eventual winner Patrick Reed by four strokes with four holes to play before losing in a playoff.
One week later and Walker has positioned himself to defend his title after Saturday’s surge put him on 16-under for the tournament with four birdies on the front nine and six on the back offsetting a couple of bogeys.
“I was pretty bummed (about last week) but I got over it. You have to because you have to play the next day,” Walker told reporters. “It was nice not to have too many days in between tournaments.”
Second round co-leader Matt Kuchar is two strokes off the lead at 14-under following a two-under 68 and will lead a host of challengers snapping at Walker’s heels in Sunday’s final round.
Americans Brian Harman and Troy Merritt are at 13-under, while South African Tim Clark and 21-year-old Justin Thomas sit another shot further back.
Thomas was the story of the tournament in the second round where he blitzed the field for a course record-tying 61. However, in the follow up, the unsung youngster struggled with swing issues and could only manage an even-par 70.
Walker used a red-hot putter to nose in front as he amazingly finished the day with 11 straight one-putts.
He has enjoyed quite the run in Hawaii, where he is a collective 54-under-par in his last 11 competitive rounds there.
“It’s awfully impressive what Jimmy has been doing. I‘m looking forward to playing with him tomorrow and seeing if I can push him,” said Kuchar, who enjoyed a second-round 63 but was not quite as on form in round three.
“I just felt like I came up short on my putts all day.”
Writing by Jahmal Corner in Los Angeles; Editing by John O'Brien