Honolulu, HI (SportsNetwork.com) - Defending champion Jimmy Walker fired an 8- under 62 on Saturday to take a 2-stroke lead after three rounds of the Sony Open.
Walker shot a 30 on the back nine, making six birdies and one bogey to build a 2-shot lead over Matt Kuchar heading into the final round at Waialae Country Club.
He stands at 16-under 195 and will try to become the first back-to-back winner of the event since Ernie Els in 2003-04.
Kuchar, who shared the 36-hole lead on Friday with Justin Thomas and Webb Simpson, birdied two of his last three holes Saturday. Kuchar carded a 2-under 68 to end three rounds at minus-14. He has finished in the top 10 at this event in three of the past four years.
Brian Harman (64) and Troy Merritt (67) were one shot further back at 13-under 197 and Thomas slipped into a tie for fifth place with Tim Clark (68) at 198 after shooting a 70.
Max Homa (63) was at 199 and Simpson fell into an 11-way tie for eighth at minus-10 after making three bogeys and just one birdie in a 72.
Walker stumbled out of the gate as he found water off the tee at the second. That led to a bogey, which dropped him to minus-7. He quickly erased that mistake as he holed out for birdie from off the third green.
The three-time winner last season birdied the sixth from 26 feet out. Walker converted back-to-back birdies at eight and nine en route to making the turn at minus-11.
Walker poured in a 22-footer for birdie on No. 10 to make it three in a row. After another birdie at the 12th, Walker kicked off a hot stretch of golf with a 6-foot birdie effort on the 14th.
He nearly holed his approach at the 15th, but settled for a tap-in birdie. Walker drained a 30-foot putt at 16 to cap a run of three consecutive birdies. He failed to save par from a greenside bunker at the par-3 17th, but Walker converted a 9-foot birdie effort on the 18th to grab a 2-shot lead after three rounds.
"I think when I tapped that one in on 15, I started thinking, wow, that feels like a lot of one-putts in a row," said Walker, who needed just 22 putts in his third round as he 1-putted his final 11 holes. "I've always enjoyed coming here. I think this is one of the best golf courses we play. It shows what a good golf course is, and what it doesn't have to be."
Kuchar had an up-and-down front nine. After three pars to open his day, he was unable to save par from a bunker on the par-3 fourth. Kuchar bounced back with a birdie on the sixth, but he 3-putted for bogey on the seventh to dip to minus-11.
The 36-year-old birdied the ninth to move back to even-par for his round. He started the back nine with six pars in a row.
Kuchar stuffed his approach at the 16th inside a foot and he kicked that in for birdie. After a par at 17, Kuchar's second to the par-5 closing hole missed the green.
His chip shot narrowly missed going in and Kuchar tapped in for birdie to end two behind Walker.
"It was kind of slow and steady. I actually felt like I hit the ball pretty well today, and the kind of 10- to 15- to 20-footers that I saw a lot go in the first two days seemed to come up short today," admitted Kuchar. "It seemed like our whole group was just coming up a little bit short, so not a whole lot other than that to report."
NOTES: Walker is 54-under par in his last 11 competitive rounds in Hawaii ... Walker has the 54-hole lead for the third time in his career, and he won one of the previous two times he was in that position ... With the large cut of 85 players, 15 players missed the secondary cut after round three ... Among those 15 were former U.S. Open winner Lucas Glover, amateur Kyle Suppa and Hideki Matsuyama.