NEW YORK: Xander Schauffele produced a late birdie spree to hold onto a slender lead at the PGA Tour’s Travelers Championship Saturday with a three-under-par 67.
Schauffele, who led by five shots after Friday’s second round, will take a one-shot advantage into Sunday’s final round at TPC River Highlands in Cromwell, Connecticut.
But the 28-year-old from California left it late to ensure he would remain on top of the leaderboard on Saturday with a pair of birdies on the 16th and 17th holes to drop to 17 under for the tournament.
He rolled in a 16-foot birdie putt at the par-three 16th and then drilled an iron from the fairway to a few feet for a further birdie on the 17th.
That ultimately allowed Schauffele to finish the day just in front of red-hot Patrick Cantlay, who had a bogey-free seven-under-par 63 to move to 16 under.
Schauffele is looking forward to a final round duel against close friend and Ryder Cup playing partner Cantlay.
“It will be fun. I’ve been looking forward to playing with Pat in a final round,” he said.
“We don’t get paired together very often in regular tournaments, only in those team ones.
“So there’s a certain level of comfort we have playing with each other and hopefully that pays off and hopefully we can make a lot of birdies.”
Cantlay was similarly enthused by the prospect of a final day shoot-out with his friend.
“We actually haven’t played that much together in tournament play, maybe only three times in the last three, four years. So it will be good to go out there again with him,” Cantlay said.
“It’s always nice to be out with him, if he’s on my team or if he’s not. I’m going to go out there tomorrow and try as hard as I can and let the chips fall where they may.”
Sahith Theegala is three off the lead on 14 under after his six-under-par 64.
The highlight of Theegala’s round came with a brilliant eagle three on the par-five 13th, when he reached the green in two before rolling in an 11-foot putt.
The only blemish on an otherwise flawless round came at the 18th, where he made bogey.
Kevin Kisner is one behind Theegala on 13 under after his four-under-par 66.
Scotland’s Martin Laird is tied for fifth with Lee Kyoung-hoon on 12 under. Laird and Lee both carded four-under-par 66s.
Four players including first round co-leader J.T. Poston are tied for seventh on 11 under, while Scottie Scheffler heads a quartet on 10 under after a five-under-par 65.
But there was more disappointment for Northern Ireland’s Rory McIlroy.
The four-time major-winner who shot an eight-under-par 62 in the first round had fallen away on Friday after a second round that included a quadruple bogey eight on the 12th hole.
McIlroy navigated his return to the 12th safely on Saturday with a par, but was already struggling after making a double-bogey and bogey on the front nine.
Two more bogeys on the 14th and 16th holes left him tied for 31st place on six under, 11 shots off the lead.