Ryan Moore had no trouble explaining how, after 12 consecutive pars to start the third round of the Valspar Championship at Palm Harbor, Fla., he birdied four of the final six holes Saturday.
“I just hit it closer,” he said.
The result was a four-under-par 67 that pushed Moore to a 54-hole total of nine-under 204 and a one-shot lead over Jordan Spieth on Innisbrook Resort's Copperhead course.
Spieth shot 68. Derek Ernst was another stroke back after a 69.
The field was like a crowded freeway early before Moore finally opened up some space. When the final pairing of Brendon de Jonge and Spieth reached its fifth hole, they were part of an eight-way tie for the lead at five under. Another seven players were a shot back. Twenty-seven were within three.
While de Jonge, who led by one after 36 holes, shot 75 and fell off the pace, Moore, seeking his fifth career win, moved steadily along in the swirling wind until sprinting to the finish.
“Any day around this golf course with no bogies is pretty good especially the spots where I hit it,” Moore said. “I was able to save par really low in the middle of my round, made some good putts but had some good chip shots. Was able to get it rolling there and make some birdies coming in.”
Spieth was tied for the lead until Moore's birdie at 18. Spieth saved par at that hole with a one-putt from six feet.
“I got a lot of confidence at the end right there with my putter,” Spieth said. “I had those six-, seven- footers that, you know, when I'm close but not quite there those are the ones that slide by the hole because I just kind of baby it a little bit and hit confident putts coming in. Hopefully, that does a lot of good for me tomorrow.”
Nine players are within five shots, all aiming at Moore.
“Ryan has been obviously on his game for weeks now and I've just been starting to trend up where I want to be,” Spieth said, “We're both really right where we want to be this week.
“So, with that being said, he's a great ball-striker. He hits it very straight and very disciplined and good putter. I expect him to shoot a few under tomorrow and I'm going to have a really good round to win.”
Six players were tied for the lead heading into the final round of the Tshwane Open in Pretoria, South Africa.
Adrian Otaegui of Spain had a two-shot lead overnight but shot a two-over 72 and was joined atop the leaderboard by Englishman David Horsey, South Africans George Coetzee, Trevor Fisher Jr. and Wallie Coetsee, and Scotland's Craig Lee. They were all on 9-under 201.
Lee made the biggest move with his 66 at the Pretoria Country Club.
Two other South Africans, Ockie Strydom and Erik van Rooyen, were a shot behind at the final event of a three-tournament swing for the European Tour in South Africa.
Ryder Cup player Edoardo Molinari of Italy was in a tie for ninth, but just two shots off the lead.
Defending champion Inbee Park birdied two of her last four holes to shoot a two-under 71 and move a stroke clear of fellow South Korean So Yeon Ryu in the third round of the European Tour's World Ladies Championship in Haikou, China.
Ryu surged into the lead after making seven birdies and an eagle to shoot a 65 on Mission Hills' Blackstone Course and move to nine-under 210 overall.
But the second-ranked Park birdied No. 15 and 17 to move back in front, finishing at 10-under 209.
Norway's Suzann Pettersen (67) and China's Lin Xiyu (73) were two strokes behind Ryu in joint third. Park is trying to win her second title in as many weeks after capturing the HSBC Women's Champions trophy last week in Singapore.