Korea’s Byeong Hun An produced a birdie-birdie finish to stay in the title race at the Honda Classic on Saturday.
An, who is seeking his maiden PGA TOUR victory, shot a 3-under 67 at PGA National Resort in Florida and will enter Sunday’s final round in tied sixth position, five back of leader Chris Kirk. The American also birdied his closing two holes for a 66 to lead on 13-under 197, two clear of Eric Cole (66) while second round leader Justin Suh was a further stroke back following a 70.
Sungjae Im, the 2020 Honda Classic champion, carded a 70 for tied 39th position while compatriot S.H. Kim also registered a 70 for T65.
The 31-year-old An sank five birdies against two bogeys to give himself a shot at becoming only the third Asian winner at the tournament after Y.E. Yang (2009) and Im. “It was pretty good overall. Finished pretty strong which was nice to keep the momentum going into tomorrow,” said An, who has three career runner-up finishes on the PGA TOUR.
After turning in 35 with two birdies against as many bogeys, An made a late charge with three birdies in his last six holes. The highlight of the day was a birdie on the par-3 17th hole after his tee shot landed four feet of the hole. He was one of only six players to gain a stroke on the hole which yielded the fewest birdies on day three.
An holds two top-5s in The Honda Classic in 2018 and 2020 and knows he must get his game into gear on Sunday to challenge for a first PGA TOUR win. And the Korean knows he needs a touch of luck too for his career breakthrough.
“Struggled off the tee on the front nine and the irons weren’t very and didn’t have too many birdie chances. I think I only had two chances and made both of them,” said An.
“There is trouble on every hole on this golf course, especially coming to the Bear Trap (Holes 15-17). I got lucky a few times. On 15, I hit the grandstand and the ball bounced into the bunker for a perfect lie and I made up and down. You need that kind of luck. You still have to play good golf and not rely on someone else being in trouble. If I can hit it decent tomorrow, I think I’ll have a good chance.”
Kirk is looking to end an eight-year title drought as he chases a fifth career title.
“It’s been so long since I’ve won. I’m going to be plenty nervous, just as nervous as those guys are probably,” said Kirk, who enjoyed top-3 finishes at the Sony Open in Hawaii and The American Express in January.
“I’ll be able to draw from how well I played at Sony and Amex. I didn’t win any of those events, but I really felt like I played great, got pretty comfortable in that situation in the heat So I think that if I just continue to go do my job and go execute, then there’s no reason why it shouldn’t turn out different this time.”
Third-Round Notes – Saturday, February 25, 2023
Weather: Mostly sunny. High of 85. Wind ESE 8-12 mph, with gusts to 16 mph.
Chris Kirk 69-62-66—197 (-13)
Eric Cole 67-66-66—199 (-11)
Justin Suh 66-64-70—200 (-10)
Shane Lowry 68-68-65—201 (-9)
Ben Taylor 67-65-69—201 (-9)
Leading Asian/Aussie Scores
Byeong Hun An 70-65-67 – 202 (-8, T6)
Cameron Percy 69-68-66 – 203 (-7, T8)