Rookie Cook ups lead to 3 in RSM Classic

Rookie Austin Cook was playing with the lead in a PGA Tour event for the first time and he not only was comfortable with it, he increased his margin.

The 26-year-old Cook, who was an All-American at Arkansas, posted a 4-under-par 66 and grabbed a three-stroke lead over Chris Kirk heading to the final round of the RSM Classic on the Seaside Course at Sea Island Resort in St. Simons Island, Ga.

“We were just able to go one shot at a time, the ball-striking was very good and I hit it in the positions I wanted,” said Cook, who earned his PGA Tour card by finishing 15th on the 2017 Tour money list. “I made a few putts early and just stayed the course. Made an eight-footer for par on the third hole to keep the momentum.

“I feel really good out there and it was big to get up-and-down for par on the last hole, and have a good finish heading into tomorrow. I’m excited about getting back out there in the morning.”

Cook, who took a one-stroke lead with a second-round 62, recorded four birdies on the front nine in round three before making his first bogey of the tournament at No. 14, but sank a five-foot birdie putt on the next hole en route to a 54-hole total of 18-under 194.

Kirk, a former St. Simons Island resident who won this tournament in 2013 for one of his four PGA Tour victories, collected seven birdies in a 64, while Brian Gay is four shots back in third after a 69.

“We lived here for 6½ years, come back a couple times a year and I’ve played 300-plus rounds on the Seaside Course,” said Kirk, who is seeking his first victory since the 2015 Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial. “So I feel at home here.”

J.J. Spaun of San Diego State and Los Angeles carded a 62 that was the low score of the day and is five strokes behind in fourth, followed one shot further down by 2015 RMS champion Kevin Kisner, who totaled 65.

Andrew Landry posted a 67 and is seven strokes back in a tie for sixth with Vaughn Taylor, who totaled 68, while local resident Zach Johnson had a 64 and is one more behind in a tie for eighth with Tyler Duncan (64), Brian Stuard (67), Brice Garnett (68) and Aaron Wise (65), the 2016 NCAA champion at Oregon from Lake Elsinore, Calif.

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