Golf: Berger ties largest 54-hole lead in Honda Classic history, Kitayama in quartet five shots back

Daniel Berger stands in a good position at 11-under 199 and his 54-hole lead matches the largest in tournament history. PHOTO: REUTERS

(REUTERS) - Daniel Berger did not have to dazzle to extend his lead at the Honda Classic on Saturday (Feb 26) , settling for a solid one-under 69 and taking a five-shot advantage after three rounds in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida.

The American world No. 21 golfer stands in a good position at 11-under 199 and his 54-hole lead matches the largest in tournament history.

Only four of the tournament's top 12 after three rounds shot below par in the third round.

The 28-year-old Florida native was one of them, though he sank only a pair of birdies at PGA National Resort and Spa's Champion Course. But he bogeyed just once, on the par-five 18th hole, in adding distance from his competition after leading by three strokes at the halfway mark.

Immediately trailing Berger's score sit a foursome at six under, including first-round leader Kurt Kitayama along with Chris Kirk, both of whom carded 71s on Saturday. They are joined by Ireland's Shane Lowry, who fired the low round of the day with a 67, and Austria's Sepp Straka (69).

Berger, seeking his fifth career PGA win and second of the season, fired consecutive 65s in the first two rounds before his steady third round.

He admitted to some good luck on No. 10 when he told reporters afterwards he thought he three-putted until his par putt went down.

"A little bit of a shock," Berger said, describing how he laughed after his fifth straight par following his birdie on No. 5. "I thought I was going to be tapping in for 5 but sometimes you get good breaks here and there and that was definitely one of them."

Berger has bogeyed only twice in three days with 13 birdies while displaying supreme confidence playing in his home state. It leaves him 18 holes from his second win this month after winning the Pebble Beach Pro-Am two weeks earlier.

"I've played some great golf but the challenge is still ahead, 18 more holes, and I've got to stay focused on playing another great round tomorrow and if I can do that then I'll be holding the trophy at the end of the day."

Kitayama's day began poorly with a double-bogey on the second hole, though he rebounded with a birdie on No. 3. But he could not pick up more ground with two birdies and two bogeys in his final 15 holes, though he looked at the bright side after the round.

"I feel really good to be right there in the top five there, and after a day like today it's kind of nice when you can shoot over par and not really move too far back," said the 29-year-old American, who entered the tournament ranked No. 289 in the world. "So to still be in this position is great."

Canada's Adam Svensson (71) is alone in sixth at five under, three strokes ahead of a six-pack of players tied for seventh spot. The group comprises Sam Ryder (69), John Huh (71), Lee Hodges (71), Sweden's Alex Noren (70), South Africa's Dylan Frittelli (70) and Argentina's Martin Contini (70) - making his PGA Tour debut as one of three open qualifiers to make the cut.

Sponsor exemption Andrew Kozan posted a 68 to put himself inside the top 20 into the final day (tied for 19th at even par).

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