LOS ANGELES: KJ Choi, chasing his first US PGA victory in nearly five years, closed with a birdie to share the lead after Saturday’s (Sunday in Manila) third round of the $6.5 million Farmers Insurance Open.
The 45-year-old South Korean shot an even par 72 to match American Scott Brown on nine-under 207 after 54 holes at Torrey Pines near San Diego.
Choi, the most successful Asian male golfer in PGA history, has won eight titles on the US tour, the most recent of them at the 2011 Players Championship when he won a playoff over David Toms.
Jimmy Walker fired a 68 to share third with fellow American Gary Woodland on 208 to pace 21 rivals with four strokes of the co-leaders entering the final round, when wet and windy conditions are predicted.
“It’s going to be a grind for everybody,” Brown said. “Under par or even par is going to be a really good score. You’ve just got to stay out there and be patient.”
Choi stumbled early, answering a bogey at the fifth with a birdie at the sixth but taking a double bogey at the seventh, where he found the rough on his second and third shots and three-putted from 18 feet. Another bogey at the 12th seemed to signal more trouble.
But Choi rebounded, landing his approaches at the par-5 13th and par-4 13th within three feet of the cup to set up birdies.
At the par-3 16th, he found a bunker but sank a clutch nine-foot par putt. At 17, Choi had an 85-foot approach from dense rough over a bunker and rolled the ball two feet from the cup to salvage par.
At 18, Choi planted another approach three feet from the cup and rolled it home to share the lead.
Hoping to qualify for his first Masters start so he can enjoy his hometown’s storied event, Brown missed a seven-foot birdie putt at the 18th that would have given him to outright lead.
Brown capped a run of three birdies in five holes with a four-foot putt at the par-3 eighth, then played the back nine at par.
Walker charged into contention despite finding only three fairways.
“I know I can’t do that again,” Walker said. “That’s a lot of crazy short game up and downs. It’s not much fun. I’ve got to work on it. I don’t want that again.”
Sweden’s Jonas Blixt fired his second consecutive 66 to share fifth on 209 with countryman Freddie Jacobson and Americans John Huh and Michael Kim.
American Jason Gore scored his first career albatross at the par-5 18th, holing out from 250 yards on his approach shot from the fairway for a 70 to stand five back on 212.
It was the second albatross in tournament history, David Edwards making the other on the same hole in the third round in 1987.