Sergio Garcia tied for lead going into final round at Sanderson Farms C'ship

Garcia ensured a bogey-free Saturday as he was tied for the lead in his debut at the Country Club of Jackson.

Spain's Sergio Garcia watches his drive from the 18th tee during the third round. - AP

Sergio Garcia squeezed his eyes shut on the 18th green, not as he stood over his putt but when he saw it stop one turn short of dropping for another birdie.

No matter. He played bogey-free Saturday in the Sanderson Farms Championship for a 6-under 66, and he was tied for the lead in his debut at the Country Club of Jackson.

Cameron Davis set the target early when the Australian opened with five straight birdies and then hit fairway metal to 10 feet for eagle on the par-5 14th, carrying him to a 9-under 63. He was the first to post at 14-under 202, a lead that held until Garcia caught him, and J. T. Poston made a 12-foot par save on the final hole for a 69 to join them.

Garcia is getting plenty of attention for putting with his eyes closed, something he says he has done frequently in practice and at tournaments, including his 2017 victory in the Masters.

“We love to make every putt we look at - or not look at, in this case - but we know that’s not going to happen,” Garcia said. “At the end of the day, if I can leave the course feeling like I’ve given it my best chance - like I did today - that’s all I can do.”

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Poston reached 15 under with a two-putt birdie on the 14th and a pitch from the rough to 4 feet on the reachable par-4 15th. But he was too steep on a bunker shot on the 16th, coming up 30 feet short and leading to bogey. Poston stayed in a tie by saving par from a bunker on the 18th with a 12-foot putt for a 69.

“Three guys tied for the lead and a bunch of guys right behind us, so I think you’re going to have to go shoot something pretty low because out of that group somebody is going to shoot probably 6, 7 under I would guess, maybe even lower,” Poston said. “I think it’ll still take a good score, so my mindset will still be trying to make a bunch of birdies.”

Brandt Snedeker, looking confident with that pop of a putting stroke, shot a 67 and was one shot behind along with Kristoffer Ventura, the former Oklahoma State start from Norway who had a 68.

Bradley cards 73

For Keegan Bradley, it was a battle. Staked to a two-shot lead going into the weekend, he had three bogeys on the front nine before he hit a hybrid from 255 yards to 15 feet for an eagle on the 11th hole. He finished with seven pars for a 73, though he was very much in the picture.

Bradley was at 12-under 204 along with Aaron Wise (67) and Dan McCarthy (69).

Garcia is trying to extend a streak in which he has won somewhere around the world each of the last nine years dating to 2011, which also was the last time he was outside the top 50 in the world. Garcia slipped out to No. 51 this week and decided to play the Sanderson Farms Championship for the first time.

Not since that 2017 Masters has he had at least a share of the 54-hole lead on the PGA Tour.

“Just believing in myself, trusting myself. That’s what I have to do tomorrow, too,” Garcia said.

“Obviously Sunday it’s always a little bit more difficult, but I’ve got to go out there and go through the same routine and just go with it, even if you stumble a little bit early on or something like that. Just believe that what you’re doing is right, and that’s what I’m going to try to do.”

Charley Hoffman had a 72 and was four shots behind along with Tyler McCumber, a runner-up last week in the Dominican Republic, who shot 66 to get back in the picture for a final round that figures to be wide open.

Anirban Lahiri slips to T-52

India's Anirban Lahiri had a tough time on the pure and fast greens at the Country Club of Jackson, carding a five-over 77 in the third round to slip to T-52.

Lahiri’s sole bright spot of the day was an eight-foot putt for birdie on the second hole on the moving day. Time and again, Lahiri missed inside six-seven feet putts and dropped a lot of shots. He tumbled from eight-under through 36 holes to three-under after 54.

Lahiri, who was five behind the then-leader Keegan Bradley after the second round, is now 11 behind the new leader Cameron Davis (63), Sergio Garcia and J. T. Poston (69), who are all 14-under. He needs a Top-10 finish to get into next week’s Shriners Children’s Hospital Open in Las Vegas.

In terms of statistics on shots gained in putting, Lahiri, who had gained 1.89 strokes on the first day, lost 4.41 on the third day. He was marginally better in terms of finding the fairways — he found just three on the second day and it was six in the third round and he reached 10 of the 18 greens in regulation.

Among the areas that Lahiri would be concerned about is the Par-5 scoring. He was two-under for the Par-5s on the first day and then even par for those long holes on second.

On the third day, he dropped a shot each on two of them on front nine and parred the other two. On the 612-yard Par-5 fifth, he reached the green in three and then three-putted from 12 feet for a bogey.

His putting, which was working so well on Thursday, just disappeared. He dropped a 4-footer for par on Par-5 fifth, a six-footer for par on Par-4 eighth and in between missed two other putts of 11 to 13 feet on front nine. On the back nine, he again missed putts inside six feet on 11th, 13th and 15th. His longest putt during the day was eight feet five inches on the second and it fetched him his sole birdie.

Lahiri’s third-round playing partner Brandt Snedeker put together a fine back nine with four birdies in his 67 and with Kristoffer Ventura, he was tied for fourth at 13 under.

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