AVONDALE, La. — After taking advantage of benign conditions early Saturday morning, Kevin Stadler downplayed his chances of climbing back into contention at the Zurich Class, predicting he would end the day more than five shots out of the lead.
But gusty afternoon wind resulted in higher scores and brought Stadler and several others within striking distance at TPC Louisiana.
Lucas Glover survived those blustery conditions and birdied the 18th hole to increase his lead to two strokes to remain in position for his first victory in two years, though his wife is expecting the couple’s daughter at any time and he said he would immediately leave if he received a call that she going into labor.
The 2009 U.S. Open winner shot a 2-under 70 to reach 14 under.
“Some windier conditions than expected,” Glover said. “But started up one, now I’m up two, so can’t be too upset. The good stuff is still there.”
Kyle Stanley, Jimmy Walker, Billy Horschel and D.A. Points were tied for second. Stanley had a 65, Walker and Horschel shot 66, and Points had a 70.
“Not much going on out there, not a lot of wind,” said Stanley, who teed off more than 2 hours before the leaders when conditions were still calm. “So you could pretty much take dead aim and hit a lot of pins.”
Stadler tied Stanley for low round of the day with a 65 and was three strokes back at 11 under.
Ten players were within four shots of the lead and 16 within five.
“It was there for the taking today,” Stadler said.
Guan Tianlang, the 14-year-old Chinese amateur, shot a 77 to drop to 2 over — last among the 71 players who made the cut. He tied for 58th two weeks ago in the Masters after becoming the youngest player to make the cut at Augusta National, and will play in a U.S. Open qualifier in two weeks in Dallas.
“I didn’t do pretty good,” Tianlang said. “It was not a very good round.”
Boo Weekley, a stroke behind Glover entering the round, salvaged a 73 with a two-putt birdie on the 18th to finish at 10 under.
“I was a little off,” Weekley said. “I had some good looks early in the round and just kind of got down on myself with the putter.”
Ernie Els, who entered the day in a tie for fifth, also shot 72 to drop to a tie for 17th at 8 under.
Bubba Watson, the 201 winner, was 6 under after a 72.
Glover birdied the eighth and ninth holes to get to 14 under, and opened a three-stroke lead at 15 under with a short birdie putt on the par-5 11th. But he failed to make par from the fringe on the par-3 14th to drop back to 14 under. He missed a 10-foot eagle putt on the 18th hole and tapped in for birdie.
“It’s always nice to close with a birdie,” Glover said. “I would have liked to have had one better but that was a pretty average putt.”
The players will be grouped in threesomes and will tee off early because of expected stormy weather Sunday on the course already softened by heavy rain Wednesday.
DIVOTS: The 54-hole leader has won the tournament the last four years. … Glover hasn’t three-putted in 54 holes.