World number two Jordan Spieth carded a brilliant 63 to set the clubhouse target in the third round of the WGC-HSBC Champions in Shanghai today.
The start of play at Sheshan International was delayed by 30 minutes due to the threat of lightning and only 40 minutes of action was possible before the players were called off the course.
However, the suspension proved short-lived and Spieth was soon making inroads into his 10-shot overnight deficit to fellow American Kevin Kisner with four birdies in the first eight holes to reach the turn in 32.
Spieth, who can overtake the absent Jason Day at the top of the rankings with a top-13 finish this week, started the back nine with another birdie on the 10th and although the 22-year-old surprisingly left a birdie putt from 12 feet on the 11th inches short, he made no such mistake from twice the distance on the next.
The Masters and US Open champion picked up another shot on the par-five 14th before a superb iron shot left him a tap-in on the 15th, while his renowned short game saved par on the 17th after a wayward tee shot.
Spieth was unable to convert an eagle chance from 15 feet on the 18th but a ninth birdie of the day took him to 13 under and just two behind Scotland’s Russell Knox.
Knox began the day two shots behind Kisner but birdied the first three holes and also picked up a shot on the eighth before a wild tee shot on the 10th resulted in just his second bogey of the week.
Kisner had not dropped a shot in the first two rounds but, after matching Knox’s birdie on the second, three-putted from short of the third green and after a birdie on the fourth, also bogeyed the 10th.
Dustin Johnson and China’s Li Haotong were alongside Spieth on 13 under, 2013 champion Johnson cruising to the turn in 31 and Li starting his round with four birdies in succession.
Spieth had expected to be rusty after his longest lay-off for 10 years, going two weeks without touching a club after helping the United States retain the Presidents Cup in Korea last month.
That showed with 10 birdies and six bogeys in opening rounds of 68 and 72, but the FedEx Cup winner was close to his best on Saturday, even though he felt a number of good opportunities went begging.
“I’ve struggled to shoot lower than two or three under on this golf course in the past couple years, but today was the day to do it,” Spieth said. “Ball in hand, very little wind and some gettable pins.
“I’m obviously very pleased with the round and getting actually back into contention. At the start of the day I was just trying to have a consistent weekend to kind of get in the rhythm of the season.
“For whatever reason (on Friday), I put some higher expectations (on myself) than what I’d said coming into this week. I shot four under the first day, figured maybe I could do that again. Yesterday’s conditions were tough and I lost a few shots because of it.
“(On Saturday) I came out knowing that it was a gettable golf course. I missed four putts inside eight feet – I’m not going to complain about the round but I felt like the way I played could have been 10 or 11 (under), for sure.”
World number three Rory McIlroy also rued a few missed chances after a 68 which left him five shots behind Spieth on eight under.
McIlroy suffered a severe bout of food poisoning on Tuesday but said: “I feel much better. I was glad to be back to 100 per cent healthy and could give it my all out there. I felt like I played well from tee to green. I gave myself a lot of chances but again I didn’t really make anything on the greens. That 68 really felt like a 73 or a 74.
“I needed to go a little bit lower to give myself a chance going into (Sunday), but I’ll try to finish off the tournament with a good score and get myself into the top 10 or the top five.”