Hilton Head Island, SC (SportsNetwork.com) - Troy Merritt had just one blemish on his scorecard on Saturday as he carded a 2-under 69 to take a 3- shot lead into the final day of the Heritage.
Merritt, who entered the day with a 4-stroke lead thanks to a course-record 61 on Friday, finished 54 holes at 14-under-par 199. Merritt is seeking his first career victory on the PGA Tour.
"Saturday is a lot different than Sunday," Merritt said when asked how Saturday prepared him for the final round. "Tomorrow will be the first day that I have the solo lead on Sunday so it will be all new to me. But I'm looking forward to it."
Defending champion Matt Kuchar remains within striking distance following his 3-under 68 at Harbour Town Golf Links. He is tied for second with Brendon Todd (63) and Kevin Kisner (67) at 11-under 202.
Brice Garnett (65), Branden Grace (66) and Jim Furyk (68) are one shot further back and tied for fifth at minus-10.
Masters champion Jordan Spieth followed up his 62 on Friday with third-round 68, putting him in a tie for eighth with Bo Van Pelt (67) at 9-under.
Merritt picked up right where he left off on Friday as he rattled off back-to- back birdies on two and three from 17 and six feet, respectively. That quickly got the 29-year-old into red figures and allowed him to keep a stronghold on his lead.
After making four straight pars from No. 4, Merritt ran into trouble for the first time on the day at the par-4 eighth.
Merritt pulled his second shot into the water on the left. Following a drop, his chip came up well short of the green. Merritt then chipped onto the green and sank his putt for a double-bogey. Just like that his lead was down to one.
"I think I just tugged a 6-iron, something that hasn't happened in a while and watched it sail into the water and make a spectacular splash," said Merritt. "But I was able to roll that 5-, 6-footer in to keep the momentum going."
That did not throw Merritt off his game, however, as he stuck his next approach on nine to six feet and knocked that in for birdie to go back up by two.
On the back nine, Merritt wrapped eight pars around a 4-foot birdie on the par-3 14th, which gave him a 3-shot lead. That advantage held up at the end of the day.
Kuchar also got off to a good start with birdies of six and three feet on two and five. His approach at the par-3 seventh looked good, but it caught a branch and bounced to the left of the green. A bad chip and an eventual 2-putt led to a double-bogey for Kuchar, dropping him back to even for the day.
The 36-year-old drained a 13-foot birdie putt on eight and made it back-to- back gains with a 7-footer at nine. Kuchar then traded a bogey on 10 for a birdie on 11 and he finished up with six pars and a birdie at 15.
"I thought I was going out, playing some nice golf. I was trying to be aggressive and I played some really good golf," Kuchar said. "Just had that little bad break on the seventh hole. I hit a beautiful shot in, it caught a limb and ended up costing me a double-bogey, which was too bad. Other than that, I was pleased."
Todd, who teed off well before the leaders, made his way up the leaderboard early with five birdies on the front nine. It was more of the same on the back nine as Todd rolled in three more gains to complete his bogey-free day.
Due to Merritt's double-bogey on No. 8, Todd was within one shot at one point before the leader took control once again.
Kisner was also bogey-free with two birdies on both the front and back nine.
NOTES: Saturday was the first time Merritt ever played with a solo lead on the PGA Tour ... Merritt has never held the 54-hole lead on tour ... Merritt is looking to become the 11th different player to make this event their first career win ... Kuchar is looking to join Davis Love III (1992-93) and Boo Weekley (2007-08) as the only players to win this event back-to-back years ... Due to impending bad weather, Sunday's tee times were moved up and will run from 7:30 to 9:30 a.m. ET. Players will go off of split tees and in threesomes.