(Reuters) – Late birdies from Thomas Pieters and Zach Johnson gave the duo a share of the lead after the third round of the World Golf Championship-Bridgestone Invitational on Saturday.
Pieters, looking to become the first Belgian winner on the PGA Tour, birdied the 18th hole for a four-under-par 66 that moved him to nine-under-par 201 at Firestone Country Club in Akron, Ohio.
His late birdie moved him level with twice major winner Johnson, who moments earlier had also birdied the last for a five-under-par 65 that briefly gave him the outright lead.
The pair are one shot clear of Australian Scott Hend (63), with Japan’s Hideki Matsuyama (67) two shots back, and Rory McIlroy (68) tied with two others another shot further adrift.
“If I would have walked off today with a 65 or a 66, I would have felt that was a fair reflection of how I played,” said McIlroy.
“But only three behind going into tomorrow, I can get off to a fast start and try and put a bit of pressure on the guys up ahead of me.”
Overnight leader Jimmy Walker fell back after mixing two double-bogeys with two bogeys and two birdies for a four-over 74 that left him six back in a share of 10th with Bubba Watson (66), Jason Day (70) and U.S. Open champion Brooks Koepka (67).
Day was frustrated after following a birdie at the par-five 16th with two bogeys that left him with much more work to do in the final round.
“I’m pretty angry right now, to be honest,” said Day. “Going bogey-bogey is pretty poor coming down the stretch. I’ve got to do something special tomorrow so I get my chances back to try and win this thing.”
British Open champion Jordan Spieth (71) saw his hopes fade after two bogeys over his final three holes left him seven shots back in a share of 16th.
Pieters started the round two shots back of Walker and got off to a sizzling start with four birdies in his first five holes but started to unravel down the stretch.
The long-hitting Belgian made a pair of bogeys starting at the 13th that dropped him back into a share of the lead. He did well to make birdie two holes later but then fell back into a share of the lead again after a bogey at the 17th.
Hend’s 63, the lowest round of the day by two shots, was built on four birdies on each nine with his only blemish coming in the form of a three-putt bogey at the par-three seventh.
(Reporting by Frank Pingue in Toronto; Editing by Peter Rutherford)