Tony Finau gave himself another great chance to end his long wait for a second PGA Tour title as he earned a share of the third-round lead at The American Express in California.
Finau bounced back from a double-bogey at the 13th with three straight birdies on the Stadium Course at PGA West, carding a 67 which took him to 15 under alongside Max Homa and Si Woo Kim.
Russell Knox vaulted into contention with an eight-under 64 which got him within two of the leaders, while Ryder Cup stars Francesco Molinari (69) and Paul Casey were also bogey-free on day three and in the hunt heading into Sunday’s final round.
Homa also ran up a double-bogey when he carved his drive into water at the seventh, but that was a rare blemish as he carded nine birdies – four in a row from the second and three straight on the back nine – as he set the clubhouse mark with a 65.
He was soon joined by former Players champion Kim, who fired a five-birdie 67, before Finau made it a three-way tie at the top following his spirited late recovery.
Finau, whose lone victory in almost 14 years as a professional remains the Puerto Rico Open in 2016, bogeyed the first before hitting back with four birdies in five holes, and he added another at the 11th only to tug his tee shot to the short 13th into the hazard.
The mistake led to a five, but the 31-year-old clipped a precise wedge to three feet at the next to pull one back, and another pinpoint approach to the 15th helped complete the damage restoration from his blip at 13.
The powerful American got up-and-down from the greenside rough for another birdie at the long 16th, and a clutch par save at the last kept him in a share of the lead at the close of play.
Last year’s Barracuda Championship winner Richy Werenski had an eagle and six birdies in a 65 that lifted him to 14 under, one ahead of Knox, left-hander Brian Harman (67) and Argentine Emiliano Grillo (68).
Knox started at the 10th having made the halfway cut with only a shot to spare, but he ensured a late tee time for the final round with some excellent ball-striking backed up by a better performance on the greens.
The Scot carded four birdies in six holes on the back nine before picking up three in a row from the third, including a chip-in at the fourth, and his eighth gain of the day thanks to a 13-foot putt at the ninth capped a great day at the office.
“The first two days I’ve hit the ball very well, but I’ve been extremely untidy especially around the greens,” said Knox, who missed the cut in 10 consecutive starts either side of last year’s coronavirus shutdown and has slipped to 235th in the world rankings.
“I think I missed six putts inside five feet, so I basically just told myself today to not miss the short ones and keep rolling the good ones.
“I got into a beautiful rhythm with the putter, started seeing the lines pretty early and just kind of kept it going. Rounds like those are fun.”
Molinari, who played only seven events last year and missed the cut in five of them, continued his encouraging week as he birdied three of the four par-fives and parred the other 15 holes to end the day three off the lead.
The Italian heads into the final round one ahead of 2018 Ryder Cup team-mate Casey, who birdied only one of the long holes in his 68, while Sungjai Im slipped down the leaderboard after finding water twice at the ninth when tied for the lead, resulting in an ugly triple-bogey seven.