2 Aug 2015

Lee within striking distance in Virginia

1:37 pm on 2 August 2015
Danny Lee at the Open Championship, 2015.

Danny Lee at the Open Championship, 2015. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

The Rotorua golfer Danny Lee is four shots off the pace after the third round of the latest PGA tour event in Virginia following a course record by the leader Troy Merritt.

After back to back rounds of 67, Lee carded a third round two under par 69 to move to 10 under for the tournament and a tie for 12th.

The Americans Merritt and Kevin Chappell lead on 14 under.

The other New Zealanders in the field, Steve Alker and Tim Wilkinson, both missed the cut.

Merritt set an early target with a course record 10-under-par 61 to go 14-under, a figure matched at the end of the round by Chappell, who shot 67 for his 199 total at Robert Trent Jones Golf Club in Gainesville, Virginia.

"We found something late on Tuesday," Merritt said about the way he was setting the club before his shots. "I knew it was just off, and we finally found it."

Merritt had missed the last five cuts on tour.

"The ball striking has been fabulous the last three days. I didn't make any putts the first two days, but they went in today."

One shot back on the crowded leaderboard was Rickie Fowler after a 68.

Another stroke back were Americans Charles Howell III (67) and Jason Bohn (67), Sweden's David Lingmerth (68) and 23-year-old Kim Meen-whee of South Korea (67).

Japan's Ryo Ishikawa, who led by one after the second round, shot a 71 and was tied for eighth at 11-under along with Briton Justin Rose (65), Carl Pettersson of Sweden (64) and American Bill Haas (64).

Woods, who began the day tied for fifth, three shots off the pace, plunged to nine behind after posting 74.

He shot 66 in Friday's second round for his lowest score in relation to par this year and found himself in the hunt, a rare occurrence in his dismal season.

But the 14-times major winner, coming back from back surgery and another swing change, was wild off the tee, missing his first six fairways and hitting only 10 of 18 greens.

Woods, whose world ranking has plummeted to 266th, has recorded three missed cuts, a withdrawal and just one top-25 finish in eight starts on the 2014-15 PGA Tour.

Merritt, making his 96th PGA Tour start, carded five birdies in a row out of the gate, then added a four-birdie run from the 12th in his brilliant round of 11 birdies and a lone bogey.

Chappell, playing his 136th tour event, was keeping it simple.

"I've done a really good job of just functioning in the truths this week," he said.

"That's the grass, that's the sky, that's the hole and this is my ball. Shoot the low score tomorrow and I can win the golf tournament."