FORT WORTH, Texas — Matt Kuchar finished a long Saturday at Colonial exhausted and still a stroke in front.
“This morning feels like a day ago,” Kuchar said. “It’s hard to believe it’s the same day.”
After making a 12-foot birdie putt at the par-3 16th hole, the same place where his day began at 7:13 a.m. to finish the suspended second round, Kuchar had two nifty par-savers to finish a 1-under 69 in the third round. He was at 11-under 199, one ahead of Graham DeLaet, Boo Weekley, Chris Stroud and Matt Every.
When the second round was suspended Friday night because of an approaching storm, Kuchar had just hit his tee shot at the par-3 16th. He resumed there early Saturday with a two-putt from about 40 feet. That was part of three quick pars to keep his one-stroke lead after two rounds, then he played in the final group that finished just after 5 p.m.
Kuchar made his go-ahead stroke in the third round at No. 16 — after falling behind by as many as two strokes — before his approach shot at the 379-yard 17th landed in a greenside bunker. He blasted to 13 feet and saved par before hooking his tee shot at No. 18 into the left rough. He found more tall grass near the green with his second shot before pitching inside 3 feet.
“To not give away a stroke and maintain a one-shot lead is a good position to be in. Everybody has got to come get me,” Kuchar said. “Not only a bunch of players, but a bunch of good players up there. … I’m looking forward to having the lead and seeing if I can maintain it, and my goal will be to grow the lead.”
Weekly, even with problems maintaining focus in his left eye, and Every shot third-round 66s. Stroud had a 67 and DeLaet, playing with Kuchar, had three back-nine bogeys before a birdie at No. 18 for a 69.
Ranked No. 13 in the world — the highest in the field — Kuchar started the third round with a birdie at the easy par-5 first hole. At the 458-yard third hole, his 8-foot birdie attempt rolled over the cup without falling, ending his streak of 34 consecutive made putts under 10 feet this week at Hogan’s Alley.
Kuchar missed another short one, a 5-foot par putt after blasting out of a greenside bunker at the seventh hole. He then missed the green on at the par-3 eighth and bogeyed again, putting him 9 under and two strokes behind DeLaet, the 31-year-old Canadian looking for his first PGA Tour victory.
“I felt like they were easy up-and-downs,” Kuchar said. “I was glad to bounce back.”
DeLaet was at 12 under after he and Kuchar both had birdies at the par-5 11th hole before his bogeys at Nos. 13, 14 and 17.
Kuchar won the WGC-Accenture Match Play in February, and will try Sunday to join Tiger Woods as the only multiple winners on the PGA Tour this season. Kuchar is a five-time winner, but never has won twice in the same season.
There could be a lot of competition in the final round at Colonial, where 12 players are within three strokes of the lead. That dozen includes defending champion Zach Johnson, who also won in 2010, at 202.
Johnson shot 68, his 18th time under par his last 19 rounds at Hogan’s Alley. The lone exception being his closing 72 last year that included a two-stroke penalty. Five-time winner Ben Hogan is the only player to win Colonial more than twice.
“Certainly the confidence of playing well here is something I’m going to try to lean on,” Johnson said.
Weekley, who has won twice but not since 2008, had gotten to 10 under during his second round Friday when he made consecutive birdies after making his turn. But he had a late four-hole stretch with a double bogey and two bogeys. He was back at 10 under Saturday with consecutive birdies at Nos. 11 and 12, and was still there after an up-and-down finish.
“When we got done playing (Friday), I went out to the range and practiced a little bit and focused back on what we are here to do , and that’s win and play the best we can,” Weekley said.
There was a bogey at the 14th when he missed the fairway with his tee shot and the green with his approach, but he made a 6-foot birdie at No. 15. He missed a 5-foot par chance at No. 16, but finished with a birdie after his approach inside 3 feet at the closing hole.
After having problems reading greens in recent tournaments, Weekley this week went to doctor to have his left eye checked. But he still hasn’t found out what the problem is.
“I get like a real bad twitch when I’m trying to focus on something, especially staring down on the ball,” Weekley said. “It’s happened, I’d say probably 15-20 times so far this week.”
Even with that problem, he’s still got a chance to win.
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