Will Zalatoris shot a 7-under-par 65 on Friday and moved into a tie atop the leaderboard with Australia’s Jason Day after three rounds of the Farmers Insurance Open at the Torrey Pines South Course in San Diego.
The PGA Tour rookie of the year last season was tied with Day at 14-under 202 heading into Saturday’s final round. The tournament was moved up a day to avoid a television conflict with the NFL conference championship games Sunday.
Zalatoris started the day six shots off the lead, which was shared by three players, including world No. 1 Jon Rahm of Spain and Justin Thomas, ranked No. 6.
Rahm shot an even-par 72 on Friday and fell into a third-place tie with England’s Aaron Rai (68) at 13 under. A group of three at 12 under included Thomas (73), Cameron Tringale (72) and South Korea’s Sungjae Im (68).
An eagle 2 at the 381-yard, par-4 second hole got Zalators’ third round off to a hot start. He hit a 338-yard drive to 38 yards from the pin and chipped in from there, landing the ball on the front of the green before it rolled to the cup.
He added five birdies, including three in a row at Nos. 8-10, leaving Zalatoris in prime position for his first PGA Tour victory. He made a splash last season when he finished second at the Masters.
Yet his best shot Friday might have come from an awkward lie in the bunker at No. 11. He hacked the ball out of the sand that was above his feet, into the rough in front of the green, and it released to within an inch from the cup for a par.
“(The second hole) was pretty awesome, but the one on 11 was just kind of a joke,” Zalatoris said. “That’s a shot that you’re having an up-and-down contest with your buddies, you’re just trying to get it somewhere on the green and I just got away with it. Two is probably a little bit more important in my opinion just because it got the momentum right for the day.”
Day had a pair of birdies on the front nine before closing strong with a wild final seven holes. He followed a bogey 5 at No. 12 with birdies at Nos. 13, 16, 17 and 18 to grab a tie for the lead.
Day is a 12-time winner on the PGA Tour, winning the Farmers Insurance Open in both 2015 and 2018.
“It’s nice to be able to know that I’ve done it on the golf course twice, not only in regulation but also in playoffs, but tomorrow’s a new day and you don’t know what’s going to come,” Day said. “I’ve just got to kind of get a good rest tonight, get into it tomorrow and just be patient.”
After a 66 in the opening round and a 65 on Thursday to grab a share of the lead, Rahm stumbled Friday with a double-bogey 6 at No. 10. He put his second shot just over the green and found the edge of the green again on his chip back to the pin. He missed an 11-foot putt for bogey and had just one more birdie the rest of the day.
“I played great, I think,” Rahm said. “I feel like I played a lot better than the score shows. There was only two holes where I struggled and probably gave a couple too many back. Today’s one of those days that happened at Torrey Pines South. I played great golf but I just couldn’t take the opportunities and it’s going to be hard to shoot low.”
Thomas’ struggles included a pair of bogeys on the front nine and another pair on the back. He added three birdies on the front side.
The low round of the day belonged to Cameron Young, whose 8-under 64 was only able to move him into a five-way tie for eighth place at 11 under. Also at 11 under was first-round leader Billy Horschel (69).
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