Zach Johnson never looked back after an eagle at the first hole, jumping to a narrow lead after the third round of The International tournament in Colorado.
Johnson holed out from 97 yards at the par-five first and also finished in style with four birdies on the final five holes for a seven-under-par 65, which was worth 15 points in the modified stableford format.
“I got off to a good start and kept that momentum,” Johnson said after posting a three-round total of 27 points, one better than Steve Flesch with one round remaining.
“Making that eagle breeds confidence.”
But Johnson’s lead is tenuous, with Stewart Cink and Ian Leggatt two points behind and United States Ryder Cup captain Tom Lehman trailing by three. With no fewer than 10 players within six points of the lead, the tournament remains wide open.
Halfway leader Tom Pernice all but plunged out of contention with five bogeys on the first 10 holes.
He reeled off four consecutive birdies in a stunning transformation starting at the 12th hole, only to double bogey the 16th and end the day tied for 12th, eight points off the pace.
Sergio Garcia, tied for seventh on 22 points, was the highest-placed European after three rounds.
The scoring format, unique on the PGA Tour, awards eight points for a double eagle, five for an eagle and two for a birdie. One point is subtracted for a bogey and three for a double-bogey or worse.