LAS VEGAS — Kevin Na made 10 birdies on Saturday, and the one putt that came to his mind after matching his best score was a par.
Na was in a bunker right of the green on the par-3 fifth hole, and he blasted out some 20 feet by the hole leaving a par putt with about 6 feet of break. He made the putt for par and was on his way.
”I thought that was the biggest putt today,” Na said.
He finished with three birdies on the last four holes for a 10-under 61, tying his personal best on the PGA Tour. It gave him the 54-hole record in the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open and a two-shot lead over Patrick Cantlay.
”Somebody asked me that yesterday. They said, ‘Do you feel like over the ball you’re just going to make everything?’ No, it’s not that,” Na said. ”I feel comfortable and I feel confident. And all I’m trying to do is hit good putts.”
They’re ending up in the right spots. Na has gained about 5.5 strokes on the field in putting in his last two rounds of 62 on Friday and 61 on Saturday. He finished at 22-under 191.
Na lives in Las Vegas and captured his first PGA Tour title at this tournament in 2011. He was pumping his fist after every putt down the stretch at the TPC Summerlin, which yielded six scores of 63 or better and produced an average score of 67.75.
Cantlay was staying with him until he failed to get up-and-down from a bunker on the reachable par-4 15th and made bogey from the bunker on the par-3 17th. He closed with a 15-foot birdie putt for a 63.
Cantlay won the tournament two years ago and was runner-up last year. He wasn’t bothered by sharing the lead going into the third round, shooting 63 and finishing two shots behind.
”It’s a four-round tournament. It’s what I expect out here,” Cantlay said. ”Everybody can shoot the lights off this place, especially with the weather like it was today. That’s the attitude for tomorrow. I know it’s going to take a lot of birdies. Fortunately, that’s an attitude I’m comfortable with, and I’m looking forward to tomorrow.”
Pat Perez had a 62 and was four shots behind. Sam Ryder (64) and Lucas Glover (66) were another shot back.
Conditions were warm and calm, ideal for scoring and it showed. Tony Finau had a 62 to take the lead as the final groups were teeing off. He finished the day seven shots behind. Denny McCarthy and Luke List each posted 63.
”It’s hard to look at some of those numbers when you haven’t even teed off – you see 8s and 9s (under) out there – and not play impatient,” Ryder said after a bogey on the 18th for his 64.
Na and Cantlay came out firing.
Na has been doing his damage on the greens.
He doesn’t see any change for Sunday, when he goes for his second victory of the year. Na won at Colonial in May.
”Still got to keep the pedal to the metal. Anyone can shoot 8 or 9 under,” Na said. ”I believe we’re going to get a little more wind tomorrow. Got to go out and post a good number.”
Na also shot 61 in the 2010 Wyndham Championship and at Colonial in 2018. He posted this number despite settling for par on the 16th hole, the par 5 over water that played as the easiest on the TPC Summerlin. His tee shot was blocked by a tree and he had to lay up short of the water, but he hit wedge to a tight pin on the front of the green to about 4 feet.
Cantlay had six birdies on the tougher front nine – none longer than the 8-foot range, three of them tap-ins – for the lead. Na played in the group ahead, made birdie on the 10th to tie and then pulled away in the final hour.
Na drove to the back of the 15th green and converted the long two-putt birdie from just off the green with a 6-footer. Cantlay put it in the right bunker and missed his 8-foot birdie putt. That was the separation Na needed, and he stretched it with a pair of closing birdies.
Low scores weren’t available to just anyone. Phil Mickelson started the third round just four shots behind and was 5 over through 11 holes. He rallied with a few birdies to salvage a 74.