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Watney inches closer to third PGA Tour victory this year

Oct 1, 2011, 4:31 p.m.
Charlie Wi of the U.S. tees off on the fifth hole during the first round of the 93rd PGA Championship golf tournament at the Atlanta Athletic Club in Johns Creek, Georgia, August 11, 2011. REUTERS/Jeff Haynes

(Reuters) - Nick Watney put himself in a good position to become the PGA Tour's first three-time champion this year by surging into a tie for the lead in Saturday's third round at the Las Vegas Open.

The American world number 11, the highest-ranked player in the field, fired a sizzling seven-under-par 64 to end another sunny day of low scoring in the Nevada desert at 17-under 196.

Long-hitting Watney birdied five of the last six holes at the TPC Summerlin to finish level with South Korea-born American Kevin Na, who carded a 66.

The pacesetting duo held a one-stroke advantage over Robert Garrigus, who racked up nine birdies and a lone bogey on the way to a 63, and fellow American Kris Blanks (66).

"As far as tomorrow goes, I'm just going to try and keep doing the same thing, give myself a lot of chances and hopefully roll some in," Watney told reporters.

"A third win ... it would be really, really nice but it's a long way off, so I'm not trying to think about that too much."

Watney, who clinched the PGA Tour's elite WGC-Cadillac Championship at Doral and the AT&T National earlier this season, began the third round two strokes off the lead.

After reaching the turn in two-under 33, he upped the tempo with birdies at 13, 14, 16, 17 and the par-four last to charge to the top of the leaderboard.

"I'm trying to keep it really simple," said the 30-year-old Las Vegas resident. "I've driven the ball pretty well and I've hit quite a bit of greens.

"That's what you need to do out here is give yourself as many chances as possible. I've been able to do that so far, and that's the game plan for tomorrow."

BUNCHED LEADERBOARD

Six players were tied for the lead early on in Saturday's third round -- Na, Watney, Blanks, Bryce Molder, Paul Goydos and Jhonattan Vegas - before Na initially took control.

In pursuit of his first PGA Tour title, Na reeled off birdies at the third, fifth, seventh and ninth to reach the turn at 16 under and a stroke in front of the chasing pack.

Moments later, Blanks bogeyed the par-four 10th to hand Na a two-shot advantage.

However, Na failed to maintain momentum and he was eventually caught by the fast-finishing Watney who felt experience could be a decisive factor in Sunday's final round.

"Experience is very key, and knowing how to handle certain situations," Watney said. "But even Tiger Woods at one point had never won out here so you gotta start somewhere.

"It's going to be a tough day tomorrow, but I'm looking forward to the challenge."

Venezuelan rookie Jhonattan Vegas, who had been tied for the lead overnight with Na and South Korean Charlie Wi, carded a 69 to end the third round three strokes off the pace.

Wi endured a difficult day, recording three birdies and four bogeys for a 72 to trail by six shots.

(Writing by Mark Lamport-Stokes in Los Angeles; Editing by Julian Linden; To query or comment on this story email sportsfeedback@thomsonreuters.com)

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