Henley takes three-shot lead into final round of CJ Cup

Hatton three birdies and an eagle in his first five holes.                     Image SIPA USA  PA Images

Hatton three birdies and an eagle in his first five holes. Image SIPA USA PA Images

He took birdies on the par-four third and sixth holes, dropped a shot on the long seventh, but then made six birdies against just one bogey in playing his back nine in five-under, including birdying his last three holes.

The 31-year-old American, chasing his fourth US PGA title but his first in 3 1/2 years, stood on 15-under 201 after 54 holes over the Las Vegas layout. "Kept the ball in front of me and stayed patient", Henley said.

Fellow American Lanto Griffin (66) shot up six spots on the leaderboard to sit in a four-way tie for second place at 12 under.

"I was trying to figure out what was worse - the pace of play or my quality of golf", he said.

World number 121 Henley plans to keep it simple in his bid to add to a trophy haul that includes the 2013 Sony Open in Hawaii, the 2014 Honda Classic and 2017 Houston Open. Hopefully I can keep it going. The greens are great and it's gettable, but you've got to play well to do that.

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Henley birdied three holes in a row on Nos. "I hit it all right there in the middle of the round, hit some good shots, but kind of the start and the end I struggled a little bit off the tee". He also sank an eagle putt from just inside seven feet at the par-5 seventh. "Obviously I was disappointed with bogeys", he said. "It was a fun day".

The tournament, typically part of the PGA Tour's Asian swing, was moved to the Las Vegas venue due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and features a crowded field of top talent warming up for the Masters next month, including world number three Justin Thomas (68) and the reigning PGA Championship victor Collin Morikawa (71), who were five and six strokes back from the lead, respectively.

After reaching the turn in 34, Henley drained a 25-footer at the 10th and made a tap-in birdie at the driveable next, with the three-time PGA Tour victor making a five-foot gain at the 12th and then finishing his blemish-free card with a run of pars. It was just a lot of bad breaks kind of.

It was one of the best birdie runs of his career, and just behind the seven straight he made at this event in 2018 when it was played in its typical location South Korea. "Today was my bad day for the week, got it out of the way before Sunday, which is nice".

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