SILVIS, Ill. – Michael Kim spent his 25th birthday moving within 18 holes of his first PGA Tour victory.
Kim took a five-shot lead Saturday at the John Deere Classic in a third round delayed twice for a total of roughly four hours because of bad weather and concerns over lightning.
Kim, who has just one top-10 finish in 84 career PGA Tour starts, shot a 7-under 64 – closing with four straight birdies – for a three-day total of 22-under 191.
Bronson Burgoon (66) was 17 under and Australian Matt Jones (66) was 16 under. But if Kim plays as well on Sunday as he did while celebrating his birthday, the former Cal star will likely cruise to victory.
“Coming into the day I told myself, `It’s your birthday. Try and have as stress-free a day as possible.’ I’m very satisfied with the score I shot,” Kim said.
Harold Varner III (66) was alone in fourth at 15 under. Andres Romero of Argentina was 14 under after shooting 64, as was Sam Ryder (67).
Tyler Duncan had the day’s best round with a 63.
The players who weren’t able to complete Friday’s second round because of bad weather, a group that included Kim, did so earlier Saturday. The field was then subjected to two more weather delays – this time of 2 1/2 hours and then 1 1/2 hours.
The interruptions didn’t bother the birthday boy.
Kim was the NCAA player of the year for Cal in 2013, but he’s yet to stand out as a pro. His best finish on tour was a tie for third at the 2016 Safeway Open.
On Friday, Kim was four strokes ahead and in the middle of playing the 18th hole when play was suspended for the second and final time. He missed an 8-footer for par when play resumed early Saturday, his only bogey of the second round.
Kim was both steady and, at times, spectacular. He pushed his lead to three strokes by hitting his approach from 144 yards to 7 feet on the par-4 13th. A 20-foot birdie putt on the par-4 15th kicked off his strong finish. Kim’s final three birdies were all from inside 15 feet.
What’s gone right for Kim this week?
“Everything,” he said. “I’m hitting it good. Hitting a lot of fairways, a lot of greens and making a lot of putts. It’s just been a great three days so far.”
Burgoon’s round was highlighted by one of the best shots of the tournament so far. His tee shot on the 226-yard, par-3 seventh hole got within 18 inches of the cup for a tap-in.
Jones, in search of his second PGA Tour win, moved up the leaderboard with a 37-footer for eagle on 17.
Duncan entered the day barely above the cut line. He was 9 under through his first 14 holes, setting up a potential run at Paul Goydos’ course-record 59 from 2010. But Duncan cooled off and then finished with a bogey.
He was 12 under alongside Steve Wheatcroft, who fell out of contention with a 71.
“I thought about it once. I knew there were a lot of chances left,” Duncan said of the possible 59. “I hit a couple good shots, but it played a little tough coming in.”
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