JEJU • Danny Lee is more Kiwi than he is South Korean, having migrated to New Zealand when he was just eight and becoming a citizen in 2008.
But the 29-year-old was still happy to perform well in front of his "home" fans when he hurled himself into CJ Cup title contention yesterday, after he capitalised on Justin Thomas' final-hole error to join the American in the lead heading into the final round today.
The Incheon-born Lee sank a long eagle putt on the par-five 18th for a 68 and a 15-under 201 aggregate to move to the top of the leaderboard at Nine Bridges Golf Club on the South Korean resort island of Jeju.
"It was a difficult round. Definitely more windy than yesterday or the day before. So the scores were not quite as low," he said.
"I've never played exceptionally well in Korea, so I also felt I could play better in front of my Korean fans.
"On top of that, my parents and my wife are Korean and my granddad lives here so that would be great.
"I am glad I had a strong showing this week and hopefully I can say the same tomorrow."
World No. 5 Thomas, the second-round leader, had a three-shot cushion over Lee at the 18th. But he splashed his second shot into the water surrounding the island green for the second time in three rounds this week, leading to a bogey six and a round of 70.
"I just didn't hit a lot of good putts that burned the edges and didn't quite go in," the 2017 winner said after his round, which included five birdies and three bogeys.
"If a couple of those putts fall, I don't make a bad bogey on 18 and the other two bogeys I made.
"Today easily could have been a 65 or 66, but to not really get anything out of it and still have a share of the lead going into Sunday is a good thing. It's not too frustrating since I'm tied for the lead.
"Obviously Danny's playing well, a lot of guys are playing well, so I need to go out and play well tomorrow."
Australian Cameron Smith shot a 68 to trail the leaders by three shots, with Wyndham Clark (67) and Jordan Spieth (70) one shot behind.
South Korean An Byeong-hun, who led after the opening round, also found a watery grave at the last for a double-bogey as he tumbled five shots back of the leading pair with a 73.
Norwegian Viktor Hovland carded a 74, snapping his PGA Tour record of 19 consecutive rounds in the 60s.
The lowest score of the day was shared by young star Collin Morikawa and Gary Woodland, who both carded fine 65s to sit at nine under.
Before the third round started, world No. 1 and defending champion Brooks Koepka withdrew with a recurrence of a long-standing knee injury.
The American had struggled to a three-over 75 on Friday and was already out of contention.
REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE