Korea’s rising star K.H. Lee showed his resilience to stay in contention after a battling third round of 1-under 69 kept him two shots behind co-leaders Kramer Hickok and Bubba Watson at the Travelers Championship on Saturday.
Japan’s Satoshi Kodaira, the joint first round leader, fired a 68 which included four birdies at TPC River Highlands, to lie a further stroke back. Their reward for holding their own is a crack at a second PGA TOUR victory.
Three successive bogeys from the third hole knocked Lee off his stride early on but he calmly fought back with birdies on Hole Nos. 7, 10, 13 and 18, with the first two gains being conversions from 21 feet and 19 feet respectively and the final two from inside of six feet. If he to challenge for another win just a month after his maiden triumph at AT&T Byron Nelson, Le knows his putter needs to get hot.
“It was a tough day to play,” said the 29-year-old. “I started with three bogeys and that made my round little bit harder. I tried to think positively and keep focusing on my back nine. And that worked. It was good I could finish on one-under and still have change to compete for a win. Excited about this.”
Lee hit 11 fairways and 15 greens in regulation to rank first in Strokes Gained: Tee to Green through three rounds but ranks only 61st in putting. The swirly winds at TPC River Highlands have also thrown him off guard which he knows will be important for him to manage in the final round.
“The key will be the wind. Today, there were lots of wind out there so it was a bit hard to control the ball. I think the person who can stay calm, wait and keep his focus until he gets a chance will win this eventually,” said Lee, who currently ranks 33rd on the FedExCup standings.
After being nine shots worse on Friday after opening the tournament with his career low 63, Kodaira, 31, regained his bearings to card a 2-under round which will give him a chance to add to his 2018 RBC Heritage victory. Interestingly, he has not recorded a single top-10 on TOUR since his breakthrough.
Hickok, 29, dropped two closing bogey for a 68 to sit on 10-under as he seeks his first TOUR win while Watson, 42, matched his score to stay in the running for a fourth Travelers title and 13th career win.
“In my stage of my career if I have a chance to win I’m going to go for it. That’s the key. I’m not going to worry about third or fourth place. I am going to try to go for it if I can. I’m not going to change anything. I’ve played this golf course pretty good over the years, and so my whole thing is just make birdies when you can,” said Watson.
Hickok takes his first 54-hole lead/co-lead on TOUR for the first time where he can join Mackenzie Hughes (2016), Adam Hadwin (2017) and Aaron Wise (2018) as players to win on the Mackenzie Tour-PGA TOUR Canada, Korn Ferry Tour and PGA TOUR.
“You know, just being in this position I’m trying to relay it back to how I felt on the Korn Ferry Tour and the Mackenzie Tour. Obviously this is a bigger stage, but it’s just about going out there and playing golf, and I play my best when I’m relaxed,” he said.
Third-Round Notes – Saturday, June 26, 2021
Weather: Mostly cloudy with occasional showers. High of 81. Wind SSW 15-20 mph.
Kramer Hickok 63-69-68 – 200 (-10)
Bubba Watson 66-66-68 – 200 (-10)
Cameron Smith 67-68-66—201 (-9)
Russell Henley 67-66-68—201 (-9)
Jason Day 69-62-70 – 201 (-9)