October 12, 2014 / 12:27 AM / 4 years ago

Late surge gives Korean Bae four-stroke lead in Napa

(Reuters) - South Korean Bae Sang-Moon eagled the par-four 17th and birdied the final hole to earn a four-stroke lead after the third round of the Frys.com Open in Napa, California on Saturday.

Jun 22, 2014; Cromwell, CT, USA; Sang-Moon Bae hits his tee shot on the first hole during the final round of the Travelers Championship at TPC River Highlands. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

In just two holes, Bae turned a tenuous advantage into a commanding lead at the PGA Tour season opener at Silverado Country Club north of San Francisco.

He carded 65 for 16-under-par 200, while American Zac Blair shot 69 for second place on 12-under with his compatriots Matt Kuchar (66), Brooks Koepka (67) and Scott Langley (69) tied for third at 11-under with Scot Martin Laird (71).

Bae, 28, is seeking his second PGA Tour victory. His lone success came at the Byron Nelson Championship in May last year, but he has not had a top-10 finish since.

The barnstorming finish was impressive but a 15-foot par save from the fringe at the par-five 16th was perhaps more important, preserving his confidence after three poor shots in a row looked like costing him a shot at an easy hole.

“It was more (important) than a birdie putt. It really woke me up,” Bae told reporters afterwards.

Buoyed by the reprieve, he striped his tee shot at the driveable 17th and his ball landed on the green and nestled up within six feet of the hole, from where he drained the putt.

“I felt I played perfect today besides two bogeys (both three-putts),” continued Bae, whose round also included five consecutive birdies on the front nine.

“A four-shot lead makes me a little comfortable for Sunday but I don’t think about a win.”

Tour rookie Blair displayed poise beyond his experience to earn a spot in the final group on Sunday, while Kuchar has bounced back from the disappointment of being on the losing American Ryder Cup team less than two weeks ago.

“On the front nine I had (birdie) opportunities (on) every hole, so it was a good round,” said the world number nine.

Reporting by Andrew Both in Cary, North Carolina, editing by Nick Mulvenney

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