William McGirt had never matched par in his two previous trips to Riviera. Now he’s one round away from his first PGA Tour victory.
McGirt opened with eight birdies in 13 holes on a day when everything felt easy. He wound up with a 6-under 65 on Saturday at the Northern Trust Open in Los Angeles, giving him a two-shot lead going into the final round.
At stake for the 34-year-old McGirt is his first trip to the Masters — he has played in only one major — and a two-year exemption on the PGA Tour.
Right behind him is just about everybody. McGirt was at 12-under 201, two shots clear of George McNeill and Charlie Beljan.
McNeill, whose two wins were in the old Fall Series and an opposite-field event, started with an eagle and picked up a final birdie on the par-3 16th for a 66. Beljan, who lost in a playoff at Riviera last year to John Merrick, belted a 3-wood to 8 feet for eagle on the 11th hole and shot a 68.
Twelve players were within five shots of the lead, which can be easy to make up at Riviera, especially with a leader new to this position.
Jason Allred, the feel-good story last week after Monday qualifying for his first PGA Tour event in more than three years, had a 67 and joined Brian Harman (68) at 204. The group at 8-under 205 had star power — Jordan Spieth (67), Dustin Johnson (69), and Jimmy Walker (67), who is going for his fourth win this season after winning last week in the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am. Also in the group were Masters champions Bubba Watson (64) and Charl Schwartzel (68).
LPGA — South Korea’s Chella Choi set a course record with a 10-under 62 to take a share of the lead after the third round of the Women’s Australian Open in Melbourne.
A day after Sweden’s Anna Nordqvist broke the women’s course record with a 64 at the par-72 Victoria Golf Club, Choi eclipsed it with two eagles and seven birdies.
Choi, who started the day eight shots behind overnight leader Caroline Hedwall of Sweden, was tied for first with 17-year-old Australian amateur MinJee Lee at 13 under 203. Lydia Ko of New Zealand was two shots back in third place after shooting a 69.
Champions — Kirk Triplett shot a 5-under 67 in windy conditions for a share of the second-round lead with defending champion Bernard Langer in the ACE Group Classic in Naples, Fla.
Triplett matched Langer at 10-under 134 on the TwinEagles Talon Course. Langer, also the 2011 winner and 2012 runner-up, followed his opening 64 with a 70. He won the season-opening event in Hawaii last month for his 19th Champions Tour title. Triplett has two Champions Tour victories after winning three times on the PGA Tour.
Duffy Waldorf and Olin Browne were 9 under. Waldorf, coming off a playoff loss to Michael Allen last week in Boca Raton in the Allianz Championship, shot 68. Browne had a 71. Colin Montgomerie, playing in his 12th Champions Tour event, was 7 under along with Bob Tway. Montgomerie had a 67, and Tway shot 72.
Hal Sutton, the 1983 PGA Championship winner who withdrew Friday eight holes into the first round, said Saturday he suffered a mild heart attack after his exit.
‘‘I had blockage in my heart, so yeah it was a heart attack,’’ Sutton told the Naples Daily News. ‘‘They put a stent in and I'm fine now.’’
European — Emiliano Grillo surged into a two-shot lead at the Africa Open in East London, South Africa, with a 9-under 62, putting the Argentine in position for a first European Tour title.
In a tournament of low scoring at East London Golf Club, Grillo went lowest in the third round with nine birdies and no bogeys to move to 20 under overall, two strokes ahead of Englishman Oliver Fisher.
England’s Richard Bland, South Africa’s Thomas Aiken, and American John Hahn were two behind Fisher and four off the lead on 16 under par.