Webb Simpson managed only one birdie on the back nine Saturday at Harbour Town, and that was just enough for him to post a 3-under 68 and join a four-way share of the lead at the RBC Heritage.
It sets up another Sunday of endless possibilities on the PGA Tour.
Tyrrell Hatton had one of six rounds at 63, giving the 28-year-old from England a share of the lead as he goes for his second straight victory, albeit three months apart because of the shutdown from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Abraham Ancer rode his strong iron play to a 65, while Ryan Palmer had a 66 to join the lead at 15-under 198.
Carlos Ortiz, who started this tournament with two double bogeys after playing only five holes, suddenly has a chance to grab his first PGA Tour victory after two eagles in a round of 63. He was one shot behind, along with Colonial winner Daniel Berger and Joel Dahmen, both with 63s.
Corey Conners of Listowel, Ont., sits two shots back after carding a 69. Mackenzie Hughes (69) of Dundas, Ont., is at 10 under, while Adam Hadwin (67) of Abbotsford, B.C., is at 9 under.
WATCH | Highlights from Conners’ 3rd round:
A week ago at the Charles Schwab Challenge, 14 players were separated by three shots going into the final round. This week at Hilton Head, 21 players are separated by three shots.
More testing on Friday night
And there was more testing than usual.
Players and caddies on the charter flight to Connecticut for next week’s event have to take a saliva test for the coronavirus before they can get on the plane. Eleven others had testing Friday night because they were deemed to have been in close contact with Nick Watney, whose positive test on Friday was the first in golf’s return.
Among them was Sergio Garcia, who flew with Watney from Austin, Texas. The initial test was negative. Garcia was nervous as he waited for the result, though not so nervous he couldn’t put down a 65 to join the chase. He was two shots behind, along with Ian Poulter and Joaquin Niemann.
Bryson DeChambeau, starting the day one shot behind, hit his approach into the par-5 second in the trees and it never came down. He has added 40 pounds of mass, still not enough to uproot the tree and shake it loose. That led to a bogey, and more damaging was no birdies on the back nine for a 70.
‘It’s not massively surprising’ golfers are playing so well
Even so, he remained three shots behind in a group that included Dustin Johnson, who birdied three of his last four holes to go from around the middle of the pack to 12-under 201, three shots behind and very much in the picture. That’s all it took Saturday, and it likely won’t be any different in the final round.
Brooks Koepka quietly posted a 68 and was in the group three shots behind.
Chalk it up to June, a new date for the RBC Heritage because of the pandemic. The tournament usually is the week after the Masters in April, when the temperature is slightly cooler, the greens are firmer and the rye grass has been taken over by Bermuda. It’s soft. And these are the best players in the world, all of them eager to get back to work.
A year ago, Johnson was the only player at double digits under par (10 under) going into the final round. This year, 35 players were at 10 under or better.
The six rounds at 63 marked the third time since October that at least six players shot 63 in a round. There were seven such rounds at the RSM Classic in November, about 80 miles down the Atlantic coast at Sea Island.
“I think we’ve all had enough notice to try and get ready to play tournaments again,” said Hatton, who rented a house in Orlando, Florida, during the stay-at-home mandate. “So it’s not massively surprising to see guys playing as well as they are, and hopefully the guys at home are enjoying it, watching on TV.”