Keegan Bradley closed with back-to-back birdies to grab a share of the third-round lead alongside Grayson Murray on Saturday in the PGA Tour’s Sony Open at Waialae in Honolulu.
Former PGA Championship winner Bradley had eight birdies in his seven-under-par 63 and said none were more important than the closing two – a seven-footer at the par-three 17th and a two-putt from 42 feet at the par-five 18th.
“Those were crucial holes to finish up the day and hopefully get in the last group,” Bradley said after signing for a 14-under-par total of 196.
He was joined there by Murray, who had four birdies and a five-foot eagle at the par-five 9th in his bogey-free six-under-par 64.
The leading duo had a one-shot lead over Sam Stevens, who carded a 63.
Another five players were three shots back on 11-under 199. They included Chris Kirk, who won the season-opening Sentry tournament on Sunday and is trying to join Ernie Els and Justin Thomas as the only players to sweep the two Hawaiian events in the same year.
South African Erik van Rooyen is on six-under 204 (T39) following a third-round 68, with countryman Garrick Higgo four-over 214 (82nd) after carding 76.
Bradley, who won two of his six Tour titles last season, admitted the crowded leaderboard was nerve-wracking but fun.
“It’s a tricky thing because you can’t be staring at the leaderboard all day,” he said. “If you make a bogey or a few pars in a row you can go from leading to 12th in a second.
“I’m trying to just worry about myself,” Bradley said. “If I go out and shoot a good round tomorrow it’s going to be tough to beat.”
Despite the jammed leaderboard, Bradley said he had a relatively stress-free day.
“Today was one of those days where I had great numbers. I could see every shot,” he said. “I wasn’t very anxious on that many shots, which is super rare for me.”
Murray, who claimed his only PGA Tour title at the Barbasol Championship in his rookie season in 2017, also enjoyed a low-stress round.
“Hit a lot of fairways, greens and just a lot of stress-free things,” he said. “At the end of the day it adds up to, I would like to say, an easy 64. I don’t think 64s are ever easy, but sometimes they’re a little easier than others.”
Murray, who has been open about battling alcohol abuse and fought his way back after a motor scooter accident in Bermuda in 2022, said he has kept his career going with the support of friends, family and colleagues.
“Right when I try to give up, someone gives me a little more inspiration, saying, ‘Hey, you got it, you can do it,'” said Murray, who worked his way back through the developmental Korn Ferry tour.
“Those are the people that are close to me that I really lean on in hard times.
“I’ve just got to keep pushing through. That’s the only way I know how.”
© Agence France-Presse
Photo: Michael Reaves/Getty Images