Sam Burns fired a two-under par 68 on Saturday at the Houston Open to maintain a one-stroke lead heading into the final round of the US PGA Tour event in Texas.
The 24-year-old American sits at nine-under 201 for a one-shot cushion over Australia's Jason Day and Carlos Ortiz of Mexico at the difficult Memorial Park Golf Course.
“I think this golf course, it’s not a matter of if, it it’s a matter of when this golf course will hit you,” Burns said. “I think for me, just being able to hang in there.”
Day, who will turn 33 next week, and Ortiz both shot a three-under 67s to reach eight-under 202.
Austria's Sepp Straka was one shot back in fourth after a 66 as both he and Burns are seeking their first PGA Tour titles.
With the global pandemic still gripping the United States, organizers are using the Houston Open as a testing ground for the return of spectators with some 2,000 a day being allowed on the grounds.
World number one Dustin Johnson, who is playing in his first event since getting the coronavirus and missing October tournaments, was alone in fifth place after shooting a second straight 66. He had an uncharacteristic 72 in his opening round.
South Africa's two-time European Tour winner Dawie van der Walt and Aaron Wise of the United States were tied for sixth at five-under 205, four shots back of Burns.
Day has been battling some health issues of late but his play this week has been very consistent.
"Right now I'm in contention, I'm one back going into tomorrow's round, so it's positive in regards to how I feel like I'm playing," Day said. "I think the golf swing is holding up quite nicely and the body is, too."
Burns, ranked 179th in the world, opened his round with back-to-back bogeys on the second and third holes but clawed that back with a birdie on the par-four No. 4 and an eagle on the par-five eighth, where he chipped in from a greenside bunker.
"I kind of necked the tee shot, but fortunately it stayed in the first cut," Burns said.
He had two more bogeys on the ninth and the 11th holes and then finished strong with three birdies in a four hole stretch, beginning at the par-four 13th.
Burns landed his 181-yard approach shot on the 14th just two feet from the cup then made the easy putt.
He two-putted for birdie on 16 after landing a 230-yard second shot onto the green.