Defending champ Schauffele leads US PGA Tournament of Champions


Los Angeles (AFP)

Xander Schauffele will take a one-shot lead over Justin Thomas into the final round of the US PGA Tournament of Champions, where he'll try to become the first repeat winner in a decade.

Schauffele, who fired a final-round 62 on the Plantation Course at Kapalua last year to erase a five-shot deficit and win, had four birdies in a two-under par 71 on Saturday for an 11-under par total of 208.

That put him one in front of Thomas, who had five of his six birdies on the front nine but cooled off coming in on the way to a four-under 69 and a 10-under total of 209.

US Open champion Gary Woodland, who led heading into the final round last year but was eclipsed by Schauffele, was alone in third after a 69 for 211.

Joaquin Niemann of Chile and former Masters champion Patrick Reed, who both started the day one shot behind Schauffele, were among seven players sharing fourth on 212 after another wind-whipped day on the par-73 course in Hawaii.

"It was sort of the day I thought it would be, and (I'm) happy to still have a one-shot lead," said Schauffele, who is trying to become the first player since Australian Geoff Ogilvy in 2009-10 to win two straight editions of the tournament.

"With this wind and the golf course the condition it's in, you kind of have to take what it gives you."

Schauffele, who has come from behind in all four of his PGA Tour victories, acknowledged that sleeping on the 54-hole lead was a "new-ish realm" for him, but his plan for Sunday was to maintain the same mindset that had put him atop the leaderboard.

"Just roll with the shots," he said of what would be required. "Tomorrow is going to be even windier, I saw in the forecast.

"I'm sure it might rain, even though it says it's not going to. I'll just go with the flow."

Schauffele was even for the day with two birdies and two bogeys when he grabbed back-to-back birdies at 14 and 15.

He parred his way in, no mean feat in the demanding conditions.

Wind was a factor in Thomas's bogey at 17, where he missed a six-footer for par.

"It's very tough to putt in this wind," Thomas said, adding that he was "pretty disappointed" with his finish.

"I easily could be at 14- or 15-under right now and to only be at 10- is a little bit of a bummer," he said.

"I got off to such a great start on that front nine and the back nine, which I usually play well, I struggled on today."

Woodland, meanwhile, gained momentum with a birdie at 18, one of six on the day to offset a double-bogey at the seventh.

"I played really well," Woodland said. "Made an unfortunate double there in the middle of the round but outside that I played great, gave myself a lot of chances."