In easier conditions, Anirban Lahiri couldn’t bring together his putting skills and slipped a rung to be 15th on the third day when left-handed Bubba Watson vaulted to the top with a course-record equalling nine-under 63 in the USD 3.5 million Hero World Challenge here on Saturday.

Within 10 minutes of Paul Casey setting up the course record, Watson matched the effort for a two-stroke lead.

Starting the round three strokes behind the leading trio of Jordan Spieth, Bill Hass and Jimmy Walker, Casey birdied nine times on the first 13 holes to snatch the lead temporarily before Watson caught up at 17-under and added two late birdies. Casey could only find pars on the last five holes.

Watson, the first sole leader in three days, chipped a seven-iron into the wind from 168 yards for an ‘eagle’ on the fourth hole and sank seven birdies. In 54 holes so far, the left-hander has fired two ‘eagles’ and 20 birdies.

“We’re all good players, don’t get me wrong. We are all top-50 players in the world. But with no wind, this golf course is a little bit easier to make birdies. Obviously, at 20-mile an hour winds this golf course becomes a beast,” said the two-time Masters winner.

Indeed, Watson used the opportunity better than most of the top players in the fray. But Lahiri was left to introspect after his putts didn’t drop enroute to a 73 that included three bogeys.

“It was overall quite disappointing as I got off to a bad start and never got any momentum going the whole day, neither on front or back nines,” said an exasperated Lahiri, whose birdies on the 14th and 15th holes saved him from slipping further.

World No. 1 and defending champion Spieth brought in a 68 to slip four strokes behind Watson. “It was a day where you really needed to shoot lower. I just didn’t get any of the mid rangers to go. Tomorrow, I need to hit better shots, make some putts.”

The scores:

Bubba Watson (U. S. A.) (67, 67, 63) 197; Paul Casey (Eng) (66, 70, 63) 199; Chris Kirk (U. S. A.) (66, 65, 69), Patrick Reed (U. S. A.) (66, 65, 69) 200; Jordan Spieth (U. S. A.) (67, 66, 68), Bill Hass (U. S. A.) (67, 66, 68) 201; Brooks Koepka (U. S. A.) (67, 70, 65) 202; Rickie Fowler (U. S. A.) (70, 68, 65), Adam Scott (Eng) (67, 70, 66), Zach Johnson (U. S. A.) (66, 70, 67) 203; Jimmy Walker (U. S. A.) (66, 67, 71) 204; Matt Kuchar (U. S. A.) (70, 66, 69) 205; J. B. Holmes (U. S. A.) (71, 68, 68) 207; Dustin Johnson (U. S. A.) (68, 68, 72) 209; Anirban Lahiri (Ind) (69, 70, 73) 212; Justin Rose (Eng) (71, 72, 70) 213; Billy Horschel (U. S. A.) (71, 72, 70) 213; Hideki Matsuyama (Jpn) (75, 73, 70) 218.