Keegan Bradley ground out a three-under-par 67 to seize a two-stroke lead after Saturday’s rain-soaked third round of the Wells Fargo Championship.
The 35-year-old American fired the low round of a miserable day to stand on eight-under 202 after 54 holes on soggy TPC Potomac at Avenel in suburban Washington.
American Max Homa was second on 204 after a 71 while India’s Anirban Lahiri and American James Hahn shared third on 206 with England’s Matthew Fitzpatrick fifth in 207.
More than 2.5 inches of rain fell upon the course since Wednesday with cold and windy conditions as well on Saturday requiring gritty play in miserable weather.
Bradley had the day’s low round and was among only four players to crack par in the third round, matching the fewest in any round this season with the final round in March at Bay Hill.
“It was miserable,” Bradley said. “But I grew up playing in this weather, so it was fun. But I am so glad to be done.”
Bradley, the 2011 PGA Championship winner in his Major debut, was excited about how he played in brutal conditions.
“Every shot is different than you hit normally,” he said. “I hit 7-iron from 140 today. I’m also really happy with my putting.
“To go out and stay strong in this weather, it was daunting in the beginning. I was thinking I’ve got a long way to go here. But I’m proud of the way I played.”
Bradley, ranked 64th, seeks his fifth PGA Tour triumph, his first since taking the 2018 BMW Championship in a playoff over England’s Justin Rose.
He said the tough conditions could be an advantage if they keep him from thinking about the fact that he hasn’t won in nearly four years.
“You’re so worried about keeping everything dry,” he said. “I’m just trying to get to the next shot.”
Lahiri, ranked 85th, seeks his first PGA Tour victory and first victory since the 2015 Indian Open on the European Tour.
“It feels like I’ve just gone 12 rounds in a pro boxing match,” he said. “You’re fighting everything, you’re fighting your body, the elements, the water, the cold, the conditions.
“It’s tough work and you just have to grit your teeth and grind it out.”
The course has its first PGA event since 2018 because Quail Hollow, the regular Wells Fargo course in Charlotte, will host the Presidents Cup in September.
Australia’s Jason Day, the 2015 PGA Championship winner who began the round with a three-stroke lead, found a bunker at the par-three 3rd and needed a putt from just outside eight feet to save bogey.
He then found water off the 4th tee on the way to a triple-bogey seven that left him co-leader with Homa, who bogeyed the 4th.
At the par-four 5th, Day sent another tee shot into the water on his way to bogey while Homa sank a four-foot birdie putt to grab a two-stroke lead at 7-under.
Day stumbled back with a bogey at the par-three 9th and a double-bogey at the par-five 10th on his way to a 79 to stand on 209.
“I just didn’t have my stuff,” Day said. “I made a lot of errors out there and hitting into penalty areas. I’ve just got to get back to it tomorrow and try and find some positives.”
Lahiri, runner-up at the Players Championship in March, sank a birdie putt from just inside 24 feet at the par-four 8th and followed with a 16-foot birdie putt at the par-three 9th to make the turn in second at 6-under.
Lahiri missed the green at the par-three 12th and made bogey to fall back.
But Bradley holed a 21-foot birdie putt at 11 then dropped his tee shot just inside three feet and birdied the par-three 12th to match Homa for the lead at 7-under.
Homa fell back with bogeys at 11 and 12 while Lahiri went birdie-bogey at 14 and 15, leaving Bradley with a two-stroke edge.
Homa tapped in for birdie at 14 but Bradley made a birdie putt from just inside 10 feet at the par-four 16th to maintain his margin.
Four-time Major winner and defending champion Rory McIlroy, who made the cut on the number at level par, shot 68, the second-lowest round on the day, despite a bogey-bogey start, and shared sixth on 208.
“I can’t be too disappointed,” he said. “Two-under out there was a very good score.”
© Agence France-Presse