Jan 11 (Reuters) - American Brendan Steele overcame a poor start, remained patient and then birdied the final three holes to break out of a logjam and into a three-shot lead after the third round at the Sony Open in Hawaii on Saturday.
On an afternoon when the winds abated somewhat after nearly three days of extremely testing conditions, Steele posted a six-under-par 64, matching the day’s best score at Waialae Country Club.
He finished in a sudden downpour and posted a 12-under 198 total. Australian Cameron Smith also birdied the final three holes to stay within striking distance with a 66 that left him alone in second place.
American Kevin Kisner, who three years ago shot 60 in the third round at Waialae, had to settle for a 64 this time, a score that left him four shots from the lead.
Steele was in danger of falling out of contention after two early bogeys but settled down and hardly hit a bad shot the rest of the way.
“Two over through four (holes) is not the way you’re looking to get going but I felt really comfortable with what I was doing and I stuck with it and it paid off,” said Steele.
A three-times winner on the PGA Tour, the 36-year-old is coming off a disappointing season where he failed to capitalise on his trademark stellar driving.
“All facets of my game are as good as they’ve ever been, coming off my worst season on tour,” he said.
“I’m really excited about my trajectory and where things are going (but) I’ve been out here long enough to know that it’s always difficult (to win).”
Third-placed Kisner enjoyed the slightly easier conditions that, he said, made putting a little less of a lottery.
“I started to see the ball actually rolling as it looks like it’s supposed to do instead of praying the wind doesn’t hit it, so it was a more enjoyable back nine,” said Kisner, who vowed to bring his blue collar attitude to the final round.
“I’ll probably be the same old redneck, pretty aggressive guy I normally am. I’m going to try and make birdie on every hole.”
Reporting by Andrew Both in Cary, North Carolina; editing by Richard Pullin