Jason Dufner surges to 54-hole lead at RBC Heritage

Jason Dufner RBC Heritage Getty Images

Jason Dufner surges to 54-hole lead at RBC Heritage

PGA Tour

Jason Dufner surges to 54-hole lead at RBC Heritage

Here is a recap of Saturday’s third round of the 2017 RBC Heritage at Harbour Town Golf Links in Hilton Head Island, S.C.:

LEADING: Jason Dufner is in position to take the next step. The 40-year-old has boasted a fine 2017, running off top-25 finishes in his five stroke-play starts on the PGA Tour prior to the Masters. Even at Augusta National, a course seen as less-than-suited to his game, Dufner posted a tie for 33rd despite a final-round 76. But he’s still minus a top 10 this year. That might soon change in a big way. Dufner fired a 6-under 65, the day’s best round, on Saturday to move to 13 under and a one-shot lead. His play was at times spectacular on the front nine, as Dufner sandwiched an eagle at No. 2 around bogeys at Nos. 1 and 3. He then pitched in for eagle at No. 5. Yet, by the time the front nine was over, he’d gone out in 2-under 34 – despite two eagles. The back nine was steadier. A bogey at the seventh was followed by a birdie at No. 9 to close out his front nine, and Dufner made it two straight at the 10th. A three-birdie streak from Nos. 14-16 moved him to 13 under, where he would stay by day’s end. Dufner is a four-time PGA Tour winner but is searching for his first victory on the circuit since last year’s CareerBuilder Challenge. He’s gotten better each round this week, going 68-67-65. We’ll see if the trend continues Sunday.

CHASING: Graeme DeLaet, a 36-hole co-leader, appeared on his way to retaining a share of the lead through three rounds. But the Canadian missed an 8-footer for par at the 18th to close with bogey and sit at 12 under. DeLaet actually bogeyed his first and last holes on the day but boasted four birdies and 12 pars in between to shoot 69 and sit one back. Kevin Kisner followed up a second-round 64 with another low score, posting a Saturday 66 to jump to a tie for third. Kisner was tied for 91st at 1 over after the first round but is now tied for third at 11 under. Webb Simpson is also at 11 under, while Ian Poulter sits solo fifth at 10 under. Luke Donald, the other 36-hole co-leader, faltered to a 72 and is tied for sixth at 9 under.

SHOT OF THE DAY: Even after an early eagle, Dufner didn’t really get his round jump-started until that second one at the fifth dropped. Dufner produced this amazing hole-out for that big eagle. Only perfect.

QUOTABLE: “Having a late tee time today, I was able to stay up and watch most of the Oilers game last night. … Then I was able to kind of sleep in a little bit this morning, and not have to sit around in the hotel room quite as long.” – Graham DeLaet, on his preparation for what would be a strong third round after sleeping on the lead

CHIP SHOTS: Wesley Bryan shoots 68 to find himself 9 under. He’s in a tie for sixth, putting Bryan in fine position for his fourth top-10 finish in his last six PGA Tour starts. Surprise Masters contender William McGirt shot his third straight 68 to sit at 9 under. … J.J. Spaun rose 23 spots on the leaderboard with a 66. He’s 8 under and T-9. Billy Hurley III’s Saturday 66 saw him jump from T-47 to T-13 as he moves to 7 under. … First-round leader Bud Cauley can’t produce a sub-par round for the second straight day. A 71 puts him 7 under through 54 holes. … Defending champion Branden Grace is tied for 20th at 5 under. … Sam Saunders struggled mightily on Saturday, posting a 74 to drop 26 spots to a tie for 31st at 4 under. Then again, that’s a lot better than the performance of fellow 7-under starter Pat Perez. A closing 42, playing his last seven holes in 7 over, led to an 81 for Perez, who dropped 69 spots to solo 74th. Perez is now 3 over and in last by a single shot amongst the remaining field.

UP NEXT: Sunday’s final round will be on Golf Channel from 1-2:30 p.m. ET before moving to CBS for a 3-6 p.m. slot. Follow all the action live on Golfweek.com and our Facebook and Twitter feeds.

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