WASHINGTON: Richy Werenski, seeking his first US PGA title, closed with an eight-foot birdie putt to match Michael Thompson for the lead after Saturday’s third round of the 3M Open.
Thompson, a 2012 US Open runner-up, and American compatriot Werenski, who birdied three of the last four holes, each fired three-under par 68s to stand on 15-under 198 after 54 holes at TPC Twin Cities in Blaine, Minnesota.
“Definitely good to have a strong finish like that,” Werenski said. “It just kind of clicked in and I gave myself a chance going into tomorrow.”
Charl Schwartzel, the 2011 Masters champion from South Africa, and US standout Tony Finau shared third on 200 with American Max Homa another stroke adrift.
Thompson, whose only PGA title came at the 2013 Honda Classic, led by four strokes on the 15th tee but made bogey on the only hole Werenski didn’t birdie down the stretch to leave them deadlocked at the top, just as they began the day.
“I’m pretty happy with the round,” Thompson said. “The game doesn’t need to be more complicated than it is. If I keep it simple (Sunday) I’m going to have a good day.”
Werenski closed strong after being unable to match Thompson’s early pace.
“I did a good job of just hanging in there, grinding along,” Werenski said. “I feel really good this week. Everything feels solid. I just want to keep hanging around and hopefully something happens.”
Thompson rescued par at 18 after finding water off the tee, sparking his spirit for the final round.
“Made a really nifty par at the last that I think is going to keep the momentum going for me tomorrow,” said Thompson.
This is the first time Thompson has led or shared the lead entering the final round since his 2013 triumph.
“I haven’t been in this position in a long time,” Thompson said. “It was nice to get my feet wet.”
Thompson dropped his approaches inside three feet to set up birdies at the par-4 fifth and par-5 sixth and made it three in a row by holing a 24-foot putt at the par-4 seventh.
“Those three birdies in a row were a great jump start for me,” Thompson said. “I played really solid on the back nine. I just couldn’t get any putts to fall.”
Thompson, who birdied five and six for the third day in a row, went three strokes ahead of the field when Werenski made a bogey at 11.
A two-putt birdie from 40 feet at the par-5 12th put Thompson on 16-under, stretching his edge to four shots.
Werenski charged with birdies at the par-4 15th and 16th holes, the latter from 16 feet, to trim Thompson’s lead to two strokes.
Thompson stumbled with only his second bogey of the week, missing a 15-foot par putt at the par-3 17th, then sent his tee shot at the par-5 18th into the water.
Clinging to the lead as rain began to fall, Thompson found a greenside bunker with his third shot, then blasted the ball inches from the cup and tapped in to salvage par.
Moments later, Werenski curled in his birdie putt to join him at the top.
American Cameron Tringale matched his career-low PGA round with a 63 to stand among seven players sharing sixth on 202. – AFP