LAS VEGAS — Defending champion Tom Kim felt the vibes and found his groove Saturday in Las Vegas with a 9-under 62 that gave him a three-way share of the lead in the Shriners Children’s Open and a chance to win the same tournament twice in one season.
It was the second straight year Kim had a 62 in the third round at the TPC Summerlin. It led to a playoff victory over Patrick Cantlay last year in what was the early part of the season. Now it’s technically the same season before the PGA Tour goes back to a calendar year.
Adam Hadwin of Abbotsford, B.C., played bogey-free — he had more birdies on the par 3s than the par 5s — for a 63 to catch Kim. Joining them was a late arrival in so many ways — Lanto Griffin, who was tied for the 36-hole lead and didn’t make a birdie until the 13th hole.
That was the start of three birdies in a four-hole stretch that led to a 68 and allowed Griffin to share the lead at 15-under 198.
This was hardly a three-man race going into the final round. K.H. Lee (66) was among three players on shot back. It all, 14 players were within three shots of the lead. That includes J.T. Poston and RBC Canadian Open champion Nick Taylor of Abbotsford, small consolation to both of them.
Poston hit a superb bunker shot on the 15th to five feet for birdie that allowed him to tie for the lead. He was 209 yards away on the par-5 16th, poised for birdie at worst. And then it all fell apart with one swing and one decision.
His shot landed on the bank of the green and hopped back into the water. Instead of going to the drop zone some 95 yards away in the fairway, Poston chose to drop in the right rough for a better angle at the bank left pin. But then his wedge came out heavy, caromed twice off the rocks framing the green and back into the water.
This time, he went to the drop zone and hit it to 15 feet.
“Should have done that the first (expletive) time,” Poston could be heard saying. He missed the putt, giving it a sarcastic thumbs-up as it was drifting right of the hole, and took triple bogey.
He closed with a birdie for a 68 and was in the large group at 13-under.
Taylor was within one shot of the lead when he failed to birdie the par-5 16th. On the par-3 17th, he hung his head when his tee shot was in the air, knowing anything too far left would catch a slope and roll into the water, and that’s what it did. He took double bogey, had to settle for a 69 and was among those at 12-under 201.
Other Canadians in the hunt include Taylor Pendrith of Thornhill, Ont., who is one shot back of the leaders and Surrey’s Adam Svensson, who is two back.
Hadwin had one of only seven birdies on the 17th, holing a 30-footer that capped off a 63. The Canadian is playing for the first time since the BMW Championship in August, and said he felt more rejuvenated than rusty. He finished among the top 50 in the FedEx Cup and is already in all the $20 million events next year.
But he is No. 56 in the world ranking. The top 50 at the end of the year get into the Masters.