Si Woo Kim lost a four-stroke lead, but at the end of the day he still was on top of the leaderboard in the 89th Valero Texas Open.
The 23-year-old South Korean, who has led since early on the first day, shot 3-under-par 69 to take a one-stroke lead over Corey Conners of Canada to the final round on the AT&T Oaks Course at TPC San Antonio https://tpc.com/sanantonio.
“It was a tough day, especially the first six holes with the rain and wind,” said Kim, who has two PGA Tour victories, including the 2017 Players Championship. “The last nine holes were better, but I felt a little bit of pressure.
“But everything feels good and I’m looking forward to tomorrow.”
Kim, who opened with 66-66 to build his big lead only to have Conners catch him, got up-and-down from a greenside bunker for a birdie on the final hole to regain solo possession of the lead at 15-under 201 through 54 holes.
Conners, who survived a playoff in Monday qualifying to land a spot in the tournament, birdied five of the first seven holes on his way to a 66. He would earn the last spot in the Masters next week with a victory on Sunday.
“I’m managing my game really well,” said Conners, 27, who has never won in his pro career. “I’m striking the ball really well, so I’m staying out of trouble, and I gave myself plenty of good looks for birdie and made some.
“It’s a tricky course and ball-striking is important, but I’ve been really solid with all of that. I just have to keep it going tomorrow.”
Charley Hoffman of Poway, near San Diego, birdied three of the first seven holes and then finished off a 64 that was the low score of the day by playing the last three holes in birdie-birdie-eagle to wind up two shots behind in solo third.
Hoffman hit his approach shot with a 3-wood from 287 yards to within 10 feet on No. 18.
“The rain softened the course and I knew I had to make some birdies because the leaders were going to be making them,” said Hoffman, who won the 2016 Valero Texas Open for one of his four PGA Tour victories. “I made a few at the start and then finished strong.
“I hit 3-wood (for his second shot at No. 18) and it helped that the green was soft. I was lucky to be left with an uphill 10-footer (for eagle). All in all, I have good vibes on this course. It would be nice to go into the Masters with a trophy on my shoulder.”
Jhonattan Vegas of Venezuela holed a chip shot from 41 feet for an eagle on No. 14 en route to a 67 and is four back in a tie for fourth with Scott Brown, who also had a 67, and Kyoung-Hoon Lee of South Korea, who finished at 69.
Danny Lee of New Zealand birdied four of the last five holes for a 66 and is five down in a tie for seventh with Adam Schenk, who wound up with a 70, while Matt Kuchar totaled 67 and is six strokes behind in a tie for ninth with Ryan Moore, who shot 69, and Brian Stuard, who came in at 70.
Eighth-ranked Rickie Fowler of Murrieta and Jordan Spieth, two of the favorites who were in contention after 36 holes, struggled to 73s and are in a tie for 16th.
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