La Quinta, CA (SportsNetwork.com) - Erik Compton, Bill Haas, Justin Thomas and Michael Putnam all finished Saturday's third round at 17-under-par 199 and they will head into the final round of the Humana Challenge with a 1-shot lead.
Compton, who has never won on the PGA Tour, carded a 5-under 67 in the second round, while Haas, a five-time winner and the 2010 champion at this event, shot a 3-under 69. Both Compton and Haas played on the Jack Nicklaus Private Course at PGA West Saturday.
A rookie seeking his first career win on tour, Thomas finished with a 4-under 68 on the Arnold Palmer Private Course. First-round leader Putnam, who has also never won on the PGA Tour, shot a 3-under 69 at La Quinta Country Club
Over the first three rounds, players alternated between playing the Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus Private Courses at PGA West along with La Quinta Country Club. Sunday's final round will be contested on the Palmer Course.
Second-round leader Matt Kuchar (71) held the lead throughout most of the day, but a few errant shots down the stretch on the Palmer Course dropped him back into a tie for fifth at 16-under 200.
Also playing on the Palmer Course, Ryan Palmer carded a 4-under 68 and he is tied with Kuchar, Steve Wheatcroft (68) and Scott Pinckney (69) at minus-16. Wheatcroft played the Nicklaus Course, while Pinckney was on the Palmer Course Saturday.
Defending champion Patrick Reed, playing the Palmer Course, finished with a 5- under 67 and he is tied for ninth with six others at 14-under 202.
Compton, who has won once on the Web.com Tour and three times on the PGA Tour Canada, had a rather quiet front nine before exploding on the back side. The 35-year-old started off by wrapping eight pars around one birdie on No. 3 and he made the turn at 1-under for the day.
Compton then mounted a charge on the back nine starting with a birdie on No. 10. After a trio of pars from 11, Compton finished strong with three gains over his final five holes on 14, 16 and 17 to put him at 17-under.
"It's an exciting day tomorrow because I will be a little bit in the mix, but it doesn't change my strategy," said Compton. "You still have to hit fairways and greens and execute and make putts. Sometimes it's hard when you expect to shoot 5- or 6-under par. You just kind of have to let the round develop and I did a good job of that today. The round developed on the back nine."
Haas was flawless on the front nine as well with two birdies on four and eight. Heading to the back nine, Haas tripped to his lone bogey of the day on No. 11 before rattling off back-to-back birdies on 12 and 13. He closed out his round with five straight pars to grab a share of the third-round lead.
Thomas rolled in gains on two, four and six before making his first bogey on the par-4 seventh. After two pars on eight and nine, Thomas made another bogey on 10, dropping him to 1-under for the day.
That did not discourage Thomas, however, as he finished strong. A birdie on 11 got him going back in the right direction. Following four straight pars from 12, Thomas poured in gains on 16 and 18.
"I just need to take tomorrow as just another round of golf and just try to go have some fun," Thomas said. "Hopefully will drive it a little better and just see how many birdies I can make."
Putnam continued his strong play this week as he made two birdies on one and five. After making the turn at 2-under, Putnam made the turn and sandwiched a bogey on 12 between two birdies on 11 and 13. Putnam coasted to the finish with five straight pars from 14 to join the other three at 17-under.
It appeared as if Kuchar would head to the final day with a multiple-shot lead, but he struggled down the stretch, which saw him drop behind the leaders by one. It was smooth sailing early for Kuchar with birdies on two and six.
As he made the turn to the back nine, Kuchar made two more birdies on 11 and 14, which put him two clear at 19-under. A bogey on 15 dropped Kuchar's lead back to one.
Then on the par-3 17th, Kuchar's tee shot hit rocks on the right and his ball bounced all the way across the green and into the water, leading to another bogey and squaring him up with the others at minus-17.
On the par-5 18th, Kuchar's second shot also found water on the left. He chipped on and two-putted for bogey, making it three dropped shots over his final four holes.
"I guess the beauty about golf is we play four rounds and you got one more chance at it tomorrow," said Kuchar. "I'm playing pretty good. I'm pleased with the way I'm playing ... Bummer to bogey the last two. Certainly not what I wanted, but I got another day ahead of me."
NOTES: Haas' last victory came at the 2013 AT&T National ... Putnam was the 2013 Web.com Tour Player of the Year ... Thomas earned his lone Web.com Tour win at last year's Nationwide Children's Hospital Championship, which was part of the Final Series ... Prior to the par-5 18th Saturday, Kuchar had either birdied or eagled every par-5 this week ... Two-time champion Phil Mickelson, making his first appearance since withdrawing from the BMW Championship last season, shot a 4-under 68 and he is tied for 34th at 11-under 205 ... Ryan Moore withdrew prior to the third round due to a neck injury ... With the cut falling at 8-under 208, 72 players advanced to play the weekend.