Chris Kirk fired eight birdies in a seven-under par 66 on Saturday to take a one-shot lead over Akshay Bhatia going into the final round of the US PGA Tour Sentry tournament in Kapalua, Hawaii.
With windy conditions driving up scores on the par-73 Plantation course, Kirk shook off an early bogey with four straight birdies on the front nine, capping the burst with a 16-foot birdie at the eighth.
He strung together three more at the 12th, 13th and 14th to seize a share of the lead and gave himself a birdie of less than a foot at the par-five 18th to take the solo lead with a 21-under par total of 198.
"A little bit of a slow start, for sure," Kirk said. "Those firsthand full of holes with the wind direction and how strong it was are actually playing really difficult. We've had relatively calm winds, then pretty breezy today.
Hunting for number six
"Then you get into five, six, seven, some of those holes where you can take advantage of, and (I) played really great the rest of the way," added Kirk, who won his fifth tour title at the Honda Classic last year to end a near eight-year drought.
Kirk said the wind was a factor in his biggest miscue of the day, a tee shot into the penalty area at 15.
"I only hit it barely right, but with that wind blowing so hard over the left it just took it over there," said Kirk, who holed a par-saving putt from off the green.
"To make that one after a nice run of birdies before that definitely kept the momentum going," he said.
Bhatia had one of the day's handful of bogey-free rounds with seven birdies in his seven-under 66 for 199.
That included a burst of three in a row from the fifth through the seventh, and a 12-foot birdie at 13 briefly gave him the outright lead.
He was tied for the lead after a 17-foot birdie at 15, but he couldn't pick up another stroke, finishing with a disappointing three-putt par at 18.
"That's what I'm going to think about, but it was a good day," said the 21-year-old who is playing Kapalua for the first time after winning his maiden title at the Barracuda Championship last July.
The elite season-opening event, this year with a purse of $20 million, is open to last season's tournament winners and to the top 50 in last year's FedEx Cup.
Bhatia said he was relying on the experience of his caddie to know when to attack and when to be more conservative on the unfamiliar course.
"You've got to make a lot of birdies," he said. "You just keep plotting around and hopefully you play this golf course more and more you get more comfortable on certain things.”
Former champion Jordan Spieth also went bogey-free with six birdies in his six-under 67 to headline a trio on 200 that also included Xander Schauffele and South Korean An Byeong-hun.
Schauffele had nine birdies in an impressive eight-under par 65 while An carded a 68.
World number one Scottie Scheffler, who held a one-shot overnight lead, carded a one-under 71 to join a group three off the pace on 201. He was tied with Harris English (64) Sahith Theegala (68) and Australian Jason Day (67).