Washington – Charles Howell kept his bid to end an 11-year PGA Tour title drought on track Saturday, firing a two-under par 68 for a one-stroke third-round lead in the RSM Classic.
Howell started the day with a three-shot cushion, and pushed the lead to five with two early birdies.
But two back-nine bogeys on the par-70 Seaside course in Sea Island, Georgia, left him little breathing room.
His 16-under par total of 196 put him one clear of veteran Jason Gore and rising rookie Cameron Champ, who both carded four-under par 66s.
Webb Simpson carded a 63 to share fourth along with Ryan Blaum, who signed for a 65.
Howell is a two-time winner on the PGA Tour, but his most recent trip to the winner’s circle came at Riviera in 2007.
Since then he has notched 53 top-10s and six second-place finishes.
It has been even longer since 44-year-old Gore claimed his lone PGA title, in 2005. Since then he has seen his career disrupted by back trouble, but he is making the most this week of a sponsor’s exemption and played the back nine on Saturday in five-under with three birdies and an eagle at the par-five 15th.
Champ, the big-hitting 23-year-old who won his first title at the Sanderson Farms Championship last month, seized his share of second place with a birdie at 18, where he stuck his second shot less than three feet from the pin.
His seven birdies on the day included four in a row from the seventh through the 10th, and a birdie from a greenside bunker at 15.
Leading third-round scores on Saturday in the US PGA Tour’s RSM Classic at Sea Island, Georgia (USA unless noted. Par-72 Plantation and par-70 Seaside courses):
196 – Charles Howell 64-64-68
197 – Jason Gore 68-63-66, Cameron Champ 68-63-66
199 – Webb Simpson 68-68-63, Ryan Blaum 69-65-65
200 – Luke List 69-68-63
201 – Zach Johnson 70-66-65, Brian Gay 69-67-65, Patrick Rodgers 70-70-61, David Hearn (CAN) 68-66-67
202 – Dominic Bozzelli 71-66-65, Anders Albertson 70-66-66, Kevin Kisner 70-69-63, Graeme McDowell (NIR) 67-68-67
203 – Matt Every 69-69-65, J.J. Spaun 66-71-66, Chase Wright 67-69-67, Derek Fathauer 68-68-67, Lucas Glover 69-67-67, Patton Kizzire 68-72-63, Richy Werenski 71-69-63