Americans Keegan Bradley and Sam Burns each fired a two-under par 69 to remain deadlocked for the lead after Saturday’s third round of the US PGA Valspar Championship.
Burns, chasing his first PGA title, sank a bogey putt from just outside eight feet at the closing hole while Bradley, the 2011 PGA Championship winner, missed a par putt from just inside eight feet at the par-4 18th.
That left them level for the 54-hole lead on 14-under 199 at Innisbrook resort’s Copperhead course in Palm Harbor, Florida, with compatriot Max Homa third on 200 after firing a 66.
Bradley and Burns matched the 54-hole course record set by South Korea’s K.J. Choi in 2002 and equaled by Canada’s Adam Hadwin in 2017.
Burns, who has had four 36-hole PGA leads this season but only a best of third at Riviera in February, opened with an eagle and was four-under through five, but bogeys at 16 and 18 dropped him back.
“I played really well, got off to a great start,” Burns said. “Overall, I played solid.
“Tomorrow will be a fresh start. I’ll try to commit to the process and keep playing well,” Burns said. “Managing the golf course, putting it in the right spots, will be big tomorrow.”
Bradley produced the third-lowest 54-hole score of his career but a host of near-miss putts left him shaking his head over what might have been.
“Today could have been my best round of the tournament. I just didn’t hole the putts I did the first two rounds,” Bradley said. “But I’m still tied for the lead and still in the tournament.”
He would welcome another chance at some of the putts that went off target.
“I hit perfect shots. I put the ball where I wanted it. I was hitting the ball nicely,” Bradley said. “I know I can do it. I feel like if I go out tomorrow and stick to my process I can have a chance at the end.”
Final-pair partners Bradley and Burns were both in bunkers at 18. Burns had a plugged lie and powered the ball 75 feet from the hole while Bradley punched out to just beyond seven feet, but each made five.
“I would have taken five after seeing where that plugged lie was,” Burns said.
Eagle energizes Bradley
Burns dropped his approach inside three feet from the cup at the par-5 opening hole and tapped in for eagle while Bradley birdied.
At the par-4 third, Burns sank a 34-foot birdie putt and made a 12-footer to match Bradley with a birdie at the par-5 fifth.
Bradley missed a four-foot birdie putt at the par-5 11th and a seven-foot birdie putt at the par-4 12th to leave Burns ahead by two.
“Those greens were starting to get firm,” Bradley said.
Bradley missed a par putt from just inside eight feet at the par-3 13th to fall three back, but he holed out from 35 feet from deep grass to eagle to par-5 14th.
“It gave me a little bit of energy,” Bradley said.
Burns missed the green and made bogey at the par-4 16th to fall level with Bradley for the lead.
Homa holed out from the fairway from 138 yards to eagle the par-4 sixth and dropped his approach inches from the cup to birdie the par-3 eighth and reach 12-under.
He birdied the 15th from just inside 30 feet but missed the green and made bogey at 16, then closed with a 33-foot birdie putt.
“Everything felt really in control,” Homa said. “I had my best ball striking day for sure.”
Mexico’s Abraham Ancer, Chile’s Joaquin Niemann and Americans Ted Potter and Cameron Tringale shared fourth on 203.