(Reuters) – American Russell Henley carded a flawless, five-under-par 67 to seize a three-stroke lead on Saturday at the CJ Cup, where an elite field stands between him and his first PGA Tour title in three-and-a-half years.
Henley, who sank a 22-foot putt on 10 for one of his five birdies of the day, told reporters he had struggled with his confidence in recent years but appeared calm and completely in control at Shadow Creek Golf Course after pouring work into retooling his short game.
“I putted really well. Left myself in some good spots to make some birdies and had some really nice par saves and scrambled well. Did a lot of good things,” said Henley, who has had just two bogeys through three rounds.
The 31-year-old, who finished tied at 27 in last week’s Shriners Hospitals for Children Open, had three consecutive birdies on the back nine and said he hoped to keep the momentum up in the final round.
“You can go low out here, the greens are great and it’s gettable, but you’ve got to play well to do that. You’ve got to do everything well,” he added. “I’ve got to just keep my head down and play a good round for me.”
The tournament, typically part of the PGA Tour’s Asian swing, was moved to the Las Vegas venue due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and features a crowded field of top talent warming up for the Masters next month, including world number three Justin Thomas (68) and the reigning PGA Championship winner Collin Morikawa (71), who were five and six strokes back from the lead, respectively.
Four-time PGA Tour winner Xander Schauffele, who led the pack headed into the weekend, slipped down the leaderboard after carding a disappointing two-over-par 74 to share second place with fellow Americans Talor Gooch (69), Jason Kokrak (68) and Lanto Griffin (66).
(Reporting by Amy Tennery; Editing by William Mallard)