Chris Kirk has won five times on the PGA Tour and finds himself atop the leaderboard again.
The 38-year-old Kirk shot a seven-under-parr 66 and leads Akshay Bhatia of Northridge by one stroke entering the final round of the first event of the PGA Tour season, the 71st edition of The Sentry, on the Plantation Course at Kapalua Resort on the Hawaiian island of Maui.
“You certainly can’t protect anything out here, that’s for sure,” said Kirk said, who made a crucial 20-foot par putt at No. 15. “To make that one after a nice run of birdies before that definitely kept the momentum going.
“When it’s a shootout like this and the scores are really low, you just stay aggressive and just go do your thing. It was a difficult start, but I made several nice par saves and just kept it going for the rest of the round.”
Kirk, who captured the Honda Classic early last season, bounced back from a bogey at No. 2 with four straight birdies through the eighth hole and added four more birdies on the back nine, including one on the final hole to record a 54-hole score of 21-under-par 198.
Bhatia, whose only PGA Tour victory came in the 2023 Barracuda Championship, birdied five of the first nine holes in a bogey-free 66, while sixth-ranked Xander Schauffele of La Jolla and San Diego State made five of his nine birdies on the back nine and is two shots back in a tie for third with Jordan Spieth, the 2016 Sentry champion, who had three birdies on each nine in a bogey-free 67, and Byeong Hun An of South Korea, who birdied the last hole for a 68.
“I’m excited to see how I feel with the lead or with expectations that I have on myself of winning tomorrow,” said the 21-year-old Bhatia, who also won four times on lower tours. “I’m really looking forward to it.
“It’s our generation now, right. I love social media, I love doing Instagram stuff and showing people my life and my lifestyle and all the cool places we get to go to. It’s just so much fun because as a 21-year-old, when kids are looking up to you, it’s a weird feeling, right?”
Top-ranked Scottie Scheffler, the 36-hole leader, had two birdies on each nine in a 71 and is three down in a tie for sixth with Sahith Theegala of Chino Hills and Pepperdine, the first-round leader at 64 who had four birdies down the stretch in a 68, and Jason Day of Australia, who birdied three of the last four holes for a 67.
Fifth-ranked Patrick Cantlay of Los Alamitos and UCLA made four of his six birdies on the back nine in a 68 and is four shots behind in a tie for 10th with eighth-ranked Matt Fitzpatrick of England, who birdied the final hole for a 69, Collin Morikawa of La Canada Flintridge and Cal, who had three late birdies to salvage a 70, and J.T. Poston, who birdied three of the last five holes to cap a 66.
Ninth-ranked Brian Harman eagled the fifth hole and birdied the last for a 70 to tie for 14th, while fourth-ranked Viktor Hovland was with the leaders until making a triple-bogey 7 on No. 14 in a 72 and is in a tie for 17th includes seventh-ranked Max Homa of Valencia and Cal, who had four birdies down the stretch in a 68.
Eric Cole of Palm Springs, the 2023 PGA Tour Rookie of the Year, made two birdies on each nine in a bogey-free 69 and is tied for 23rd, while 10th-ranked Wyndham Clark, the reigning U.S. Open champion, is tied for 42nd following a 72.
For complete results and third-round tee times, visit: https://www.pgatour.com/leaderboard