S.H. Kim of South Korea (Photo by Orlando Ramirez/Getty Images)

Korea’s S.H. Kim displayed nerves of steel in the third round of the Fortinet Championship en route to a 3-under 69 to end the day tied second and two strokes behind leader Sahith Theegala.

Kim, who is chasing his maiden PGA TOUR victory as the perfect 25th birthday gift on Sunday, brilliantly bounced back from back-to-back bogeys on Hole Nos 13 and 14 at Silverado Resort in Napa, California by shooting a hat-trick of birdies over the subsequent three holes. He had a chance to make it four in a row but narrowly missed his sixth birdie of the day from six feet on the par-5 18th to reach 15-under 201 at the 54-hole mark.

Playing partner Theegala fired a bogey-free 67 to lead on 17-under, with four of his five birdies coming on the back-nine as he pulled two clear of the chasing pack that also included Australia’s Cam Davis and Justin Thomas of the U.S., both charging up the leaderboard with sparkling 65s. Kim will play the final round in the company of Theegala and Thomas.

Kim admitted he was overwhelmed playing in front of the large crowds. “It was a bit hectic out there. Sahith had quite a big following and I just haven’t played in this atmosphere for a while,” said Kim, who began day tied for the lead with Theegala who is also chasing a first win. ‚ÄúI tried to get into my rhythm, it took some time, but I’m pretty happy with my round.”

Playing in his rookie season on the PGA TOUR, Kim was quick to play down his eagerness to celebrate his birthday in style. “Regardless of the result, I want to just have fun out there and I plan to stay here one more night and with the two weeks off, I just want to prepare and get better every week. Justin Thomas is one of the players that I really am a fan of and I admire, so I’m really excited to play with him. I want to have a great final finish in the final round,” he said.

Compatriot K.H. Lee was the second highest-ranked Asian in the standings, carding a 69 to stay tied for 11th, seven shots off the pace. For another Korean, Sangmoon Bae, the prospects of securing multiple victories in the tournament was thrown off course following a 75 which dropped him to T18 on 208.

Japan’s Satoshi Kodaira, registered an improved 69 to be tied for 37th¬†on 210, one ahead of Korea’s Sung Kang who sits tied 47th¬†following a 73. China’s Carl Yuan struggled to a 77 to end the day in 68th¬†position.

Theegala positioned himself in the driver’s seat to secure his first PGA TOUR title on his 74th¬†career start. If he succeeds, he would become the 12th¬†first-time winner of the season. While he relishes the opportunity for a long-awaited breakthrough, he acknowledged it would take four good rounds to get the job done.

“It’s really hard and really good golf to put yourself in contention. I’ve said it so many times, the PGA TOUR’s probably as deep as it’s ever been and these guys are really, really good. It takes a lot, three, four rounds of really good golf to be in contention,” he explained.

“I just didn’t really do that much at the end of the year. I was playing well, but just kind of in that 10 to 25 range I guess in the last few events. The main thing that I’m kind of focusing on was just making progress and I felt like I made progress again throughout the year.‚ÄĚ

 

Third-Round Notes ‚Äď Saturday, September 16, 2023

Weather: Sunny. High of 80. Wind SW 8-15 mph.

Third-Round Leaderboard

Pos. Player R1 R2 R3 Total
1 Sahith Theegala 68 64 67 199 (-17)
T2 Cam Davis 68 68 65 201 (-15)
T2 Justin Thomas 69 67 65 201 (-15)
T2 S.H. Kim 65 67 69 201 (-15)
T5 Matt Kuchar 70 67 65 202 (-14)
T5 Eric Cole 68 66 68 202 (-14)

 

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