KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia — Chris Stroud and Ryan Moore both overcame mistakes and bogeys on the back nine Saturday to take a share of the lead after the third round of the CIMB Classic.
Stroud started the day five strokes back but surged into contention after five birdies on the front nine — including four in a row — before hitting into the water on the 12th hole and carding two bogeys for a 4-under 68.
Moore (69) opened up a three-shot lead on the back nine only to bogey four of five holes to give it right back. Both were on 12-under 204, one stroke ahead of their nearest rivals.
“There’s trouble everywhere,” Moore said. “It doesn’t take that bad of a shot to get in a very bad spot out here, with the rough the way it is, the fairways as narrow as they are.”
The tricky conditions led to huge momentum swings throughout the day at the PGA Tour event, with plenty of balls in the water and in the rough beneath the palm trees lining the course at the Kuala Lumpur Golf and Country Club.
Overnight leader Keegan Bradley looked nothing like the golfer who shot 65 and 66 in the first two rounds, carding 76 to fall back to a share of sixth place.
There won’t be much room for mistakes on Sunday.
Eight players are within four shots of the lead, with Gary Woodland (67) and Kiradech Aphibarnrat (69) a stroke back in a tie for second.
Even Phil Mickelson, who this week called his swing “terrible” and said he sometimes has no idea where his drives are going, is back in contention, shooting a 68 to sit just five shots off the lead.
The back nine proved the most problematic for the top players on Saturday, with its narrow fairways and multitude of water hazards and bunkers.
Moore had six birdies through 10 holes, only to hit into the water on No. 12 and 16 on his rough back nine.
“It was almost two different days out there,” said the American, who is aiming for this third PGA Tour title. “I got really hot early making a lot of putts, making a lot of birdies and then turned into the backside and still continued some good play and then kind of hit a pretty rough stretch in the middle. I kind of made a mess of it.”
Bradley shanked drives to the left and right, finding himself in the water and under trees. On the greens, he left some birdie putts short and missed others by inches.
He finished his disappointing round with a double bogey and three bogeys on the back nine, plus another bogey on the front.
“Just didn’t play very well today, just was pretty ugly,” Bradley said.
Still, Bradley is just three shots off the pace and thinks he can turn it around. Kiradech, too, believes he has a good shot at capturing the title, even though he also wasted opportunities to take the lead on the back nine with a double bogey and a missed 5-foot birdie putt on the 17th.
The Thai golfer has a lot on the line – a win on Sunday would give him a two-year PGA Tour exemption, as well as invitations to the Masters, the PGA Championship and other top-tier tournaments.
Stroud, winless on the PGA Tour in nearly 200 events, believes he’s ready for a breakthrough. This is the first time he’s had a share of the lead through 54 holes.
“My coach and I sat down this past week and we talked hours about what I need to do to win a golf tournament,” he said. “I think I need to play one or two tournaments max in a row and just practice, practice, practice at home and put a lot of reps into the golf swing and get the golf swing a lot sharper than it usually is.”
His goal for Sunday is simple – keep the ball on the fairways.
“That’s what I’m really focusing on the most – keep the ball in front of me, let everybody else make mistakes.”