Ryan Moore fought off darkness, not to mention Ben Martin and Morgan Hoffman, to lead after three rounds of the rain-delayed John Deere Classic.
Moore, the 2005 NCAA champion at UNLV, posted a third straight 6-under-par 65, two of them on Saturday, finishing 20 minutes after sunset to hold a one-stroke lead over Martin and Hoffman, who both shot 62 in the third round of a marathon day that got the tournament back on schedule at TPC Deere Run in Silvis, Ill.
“It was a long day,” said Moore, who has won four times on the PGA Tour. “It was a lot of golf holes I played today, so to play that solid all day long. I’m very encouraged about it. It will be nice to get to sleep a little bit tomorrow and be well rested and just ready to get after it again tomorrow.
“There actually was plenty of light for the tee shot and the second shot (on the 18th hole). I think we would have gone a lot faster on the green there if it wasn’t for that giant sign there that kind of lit it up. We could actually see just fine around the green and went ahead and played as normal from there. I think we would have finished one way or another.”
With only three bogeys through 54 holes, Moore was at 18-under 195 after his unblemished round as he seeks his first PGA victory since successfully defending his title in the 2014 CIMB Classic.
Martin, whose only PGA Tour victory came in the 2014 Shriners Hospitals for Children Open, birdied his first five holes and four of his last five — sinking a 44-foot putt on the final hole to finish his bogey-free round.
“I think 62 ties my best round out here,” Martin said. “It was just one of those days when everything was going in. I had a strong start and a strong finish. Couldn’t ask for more.
“This is the best I felt over the ball all year. You just see a few go in and ride the momentum.”
Hoffman, winless as a pro, also played bogey free and birdied six consecutive holes through No. 16.
“It’s dark out there and TV really doesn’t show it,” said Hoffman, who also tied his career best score. “The process is playing out well. I had a great plan coming into the week and it’s nice to see it work out.
“It is really dark, and the last few greens are getting really soft and bumpy, too, so it was hard to read,”
Johnson Wagner birdied three of the last five holes to shoot 67 and was four shots back in solo fourth, and Whee Kim of South Korea birdied the last five holes of the soft Deere course to shoot 64 and was five behind in a tie for fifth with Kelly Kraft, who had a 67, and 36-hole leader Wesley Bryan, who made a double-bogey 6 on the 15th hole and came in at 70.
Bud Cauley collected five birdies and an eagle with a 52-foot putt on the 17th hole while playing the back nine in 5-under 29 en route to a 66 and was one more shot down in a tie for eighth with Andrew Loupe, who finished at 67, and Steve Marino, who made three bogeys on the back nine in a 70.
Aaron Wise, who turned pro after winning the NCAA Championship for Oregon, shot 63 and was seven back in a tie for 11th.
Play was delayed for 3 1/2 hours on Thursday when an inch of rain fell, and then the start was delayed five hours Friday when Moore and several others did not hit a shot, after an overnight storm dumped another 2.4 inches on the soaked course.
–Story courtesy of The Sports Xchange, TSX Golf Editor Tom LaMarre