By Pete Iacobelli ,AP
HILTON HEAD ISLAND, South Carolina – Luke Donald put himself in the best position to make up for so many near-misses at the RBC Heritage by shooting a 66 on Saturday to take a two-stroke lead into the final round.
Donald had an eagle and six birdies at Harbour Town Golf Links, where he has regularly challenged for the title but never got his hands on the silverware.
The Englishman fell in a playoff to Brandt Snedeker in 2011, and has four top-3 finishes in five years. At 11-under 205 and with a two-shot lead over John Huh, he’s poised to finally win.
“If I can go out as relaxed and confident as I was today tomorrow,” he said. “If I can control the trajectory (of shots) as well as I did today, then hopefully I’ll be sitting here as the winner.”
Once the world’s top-ranked golfer, Donald has changed coaches and the transition back to the top has not come as quickly as planned. The last of his five PGA Tour wins came in 2012, his best showing this year was a tie for fourth at the Valspar Championship last month and he did not make the cut at the Masters after shooting 79-70.
“I was the former world No. 1 and was there for a long time and obviously slipped down,” said Donald, currently 29th. “But I haven’t felt my game had gotten that much worse.”
His round got started with a 25-footer for eagle on the par-5 second hole. Donald then tied leader Nicholas Thompson with a birdie on the 14th before stretching his lead with a final one by rolling in a 15-foot putt on the par-3 17th.
Donald nearly closed with a flourish when his approach on the closing hole nearly landed in the cup on the fly before bouncing to the edge and settling for par.
“I feel like I can plot my way around with low wedges,” he said. “If you miss greens, you need to be pretty good at the short game. Certainly a course that favors my style of play.”
Huh shot a 68 and was at 6 under.
Major champions Charl Schwartzel (68) and Jim Furyk (71), Nicholas Thompson (68) and Ben Martin (71) were tied for third at 5 under.
Matt Kuchar, ranked sixth in the world, shot 70 as part of a group of five golfers another shot back at 4 under.
It was a long day at soggy Harbour Town, where 65 golfers had to finish the second round before the third could begin, with K.J. Choi, Furyk and Ben Martin tied for the lead.
But by midafternoon, the moisture had softened things and competitors were treated to slick greens easily accepting approach shots.
Thompson, whose sister Lexi won her first LPGA Tour major earlier this month, got things going with five birdies on the front nine to lead at 7 under. But bogeys at the 16th and 18th holes dropped him back into the group at 208.
Schwartzel jumped into the chase with a third-round 68 to move to 5 under. He has not won on the PGA Tour since the 2011 Masters.
Furyk, the 2010 winner at Harbour Town, made birdie on his second hole to take the lead at 6 under. He failed to build on that hot start, but held on to stay in the hunt.
Kuchar followed his fifth-place showing at the Masters last week with a strong bogey-free 66 on Thursday to take the lead.
Things wnt the other way quickly Friday, with Kuchar posting a pair of double bogeys before the rains came and suspended play. Kuchar struggled some more with a bogey on the eighth hole once he restarted Saturday. Then he made four birdies on his back nine to climb back in it.