Howell Leads Gore, Champ by 1 in RSM

Charles Howell III managed to hold off charging Jason Gore and Cameron Champ after three rounds of the RSM Classic.

The 39-year-old Howell, trying to win for the first time on the PGA Tour since the 2007 Nissan Open at Riviera, shot 3-under-par 68 and holds a one-stroke lead over Gore and Champ heading to the final round on the Seaside Course at Sea Island Resort in Sea Island, Fla.

“I have a chance to win the tournament and I’d have taken that Thursday morning,” said Howell, who has only two PGA Tour victories. “… I’ve talked about it forever. I thought I would have won more by now.

“I didn’t finish off with much of anything (in round three). I knew the guys would make birdies and close the gap if I didn’t get going, and that’s what happened. There’s nothing to protect. This golf course really isn’t going to lend itself to that mentality.

“I’m most excited to see how I handle tomorrow because I have no idea what’s going to happen. Nobody does.”

Howell, who has won only twice despite a solid career, posted a 54-hole total of 16-under 196.

Gore, from Valencia and Pepperdine, sank an 18-foot eagle putt on the 15th hole to highlight a 66, which Champ, 23, from Sacramento matched by making two birdies on the last four holes and hopes to add to the Sanderson Farms Championship three weeks ago.

The 44-year-old Gore, who has been back home in California selling life insurance in semi-retirement, is seeking his second PGA Tour victory while playing on a sponsor’s exemption. He won the 84 Lumber Classic in 2005.

“I love being a dad, I love being home, I like doing what we’re doing,” said Gore, who won seven times on the Tour. “We have a great new house and I have a great wife and two great kids, and it’s nice to wake up every morning and take them to school and not here, ‘Hey Dad, thanks for stopping by.’

“I’ve been out here 20-something years. No matter what happens, I’m good with it.”

Webb Simpson, who captured the 2012 U.S. Open at the Olympic Club in San Francisco, holed out from 127 yards for an eagle during his bogey-free 63 and is three shots back in a tie for fourth with Ryan Blaum, who had a flawless 65, while Luke List birdied five holes on the back nine in a 63 and is one more back in solo sixth.

Patrick Rodgers of Stanford collected nine birdies in a blistering 61 and is five behind in a tie for seventh with Zach Johnson and Brian Gay, who both had 65s, and David Hearn of Canada, who finished at 67.

Defending champion Austin Cook is tied for 22nd after a 65, while tournament host Davis Love III, 54, is tied for 61st after a 70.

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