A birdie on the final hole gave Chris Kirk a 5-under 65 and the outright lead in the Sony Open, and that’s about it.
Cloudy conditions and only a gentle, Pacific breeze meant just about everyone was in the mix at Waialae Country Club in Honolulu — even John Daly. At one point, there was a six-way tie for the lead Saturday in the third round. An hour later, 14 players were separated by a single shot.
Kirk got up-and-down from a bunker on the par-5 18th hole, making a 10-foot birdie putt that gave him the lead over Harris English (67) and PGA Tour rookie Will Wilcox (64), who is playing only the third PGA Tour event of his career.
Kirk was at 12-under 198.
Daly matched the low score of the third round with a 64 and is 5 shots behind. Masters champion Adam Scott wasn’t making up any ground, dropped 2 shots late in his round and finished with a two-putt birdie for a 71 and was 2 shots behind.
A dozen players were separated by 3 shots going into today, a group that includes Kapalua winner Zach Johnson as he tries to become the first player since Ernie Els in 2003 to sweep the Hawaii swing.
Kirk and English both are going for their second win of this wraparound season that began in October. Kirk won the McGladrey Classic in November, his final tournament of the year before taking time off for the birth of his second child. English finished the year with a win in the OHL Classic at Mayakoba in Mexico.
The plan for both of them is to not worry about anyone else because there would be too many players to worry about.
“When it’s so close like that, everybody is going to be making some birdies here and there,” Kirk said. “So I probably won’t look at leaderboards as much as I normally would. A lot of courses I think lend themselves to you need to know what your position is going into any given hole, but out here, I don’t think that’s really the case. They’re just so volatile with guys making birdies and bogeys.
“I’ll just probably try to keep my head down and make as many birdies as I can.”
Former Sony Open champion Jerry Kelly (66) and Jimmy Walker (67) were at 10-under 200, while the group at 201 included Robert Allenby (65), Pat Perez (66), Retief Goosen (66) and Johnson, who had a 66. Brian Stuard, who had a 1-shot lead going into the third round, had a 71 and also was still only 3 shots behind.
England’s Tommy Fleetwood birdied the last hole in a third-round 69 to seize a 1-shot lead in the Volvo Champions in Durban, South Africa, with an overall 10-under 206. Dutchman Joost Luiten (70) and Victor Dubuisson (69) of France were tied in second on 9 under in the elite 36-player event.