WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, West Virginia – Golf is fun again for Anthony Kim. The Greenbrier Classic is helping solidify that.
Kim shot an 8-under-par 62 Saturday for a one-stroke edge over PGA Tour rookie Scott Stallings after the third round on the Old White TPC course.
Kim’s low round of the year left him at 10 under with a chance to advance to next week’s Bridgestone Invitational with a win. He hasn’t missed Firestone since his rookie year in 2007.
A third place-or-better finish would put him in position to earn a spot in the PGA Championship in two weeks in Atlanta heading into the FedEx Cup playoffs.
“I haven’t had this much fun playing golf in a long time,” Kim said.
Stallings shot 66 to move into second place at 9 under. Gary Woodland(67) and second round co-leader Webb Simpson (69) were two strokes back.
Kim’s last victory came a year ago at the Shell Houston Open before he underwent thumb surgery and took three months off. He’s had an up-and-down year, with eight missed cuts and two top 10s in 21 events.
Kim tied for fifth at the British Open earlier this month after making it as an alternate. But last week he was disqualified from the Canadian Open after signing for a score other than an 11-over 81 in the second round.
Kim credited a talk he had after the disqualification with his mother, whom he termed a “great golf psychologist.”
“It was just about having fun, relaxing and enjoying the position I’m in because I’m very fortunate to be playing golf for a living,” he said. “Sometimes you forget about that. I was pretty upset about my 81 and she noticed somebody in the gallery who was less fortunate. We talked about that and I came out here ready to play some golf and have a good time.”
That’s a stark contrast to the first six months of the year, in which Kim said he didn’t want to be on the golf course because he wasn’t sure where his shots would end up.
“People may think I’m exaggerating, but that’s how tough this game got for me,” Kim said. “Going back to the basics is really what helped my game. Because without that, I would still be struggling.”
Kim made eight birdies, tying his total from the first two rounds combined. All of his birdies Saturday came from inside 10 feet. His 113-yard wedge to within a foot of the pin at the par-4 14th gave him the outright lead.
“I was just hitting smart golf shots,” he said. “I was starting to think my way around the course instead of just get up to a tee and the fairways are 40 yards wide and the rough is not that penal and just try to hit it as hard as I can. That’s not how you play golf.”
Stallings had missed the cut in seven of 13 previous events since a third-place finish in the Transitions Championship.
Starting the day two strokes out of the lead, Stallings made four birdies. He missed a 34-footer for eagle at the par-5 17th that would have tied him with Kim, then missed a 13-footer at No. 18.
Stallings has gone 42 straight holes without a bogey and will be in his first final pairing.
“It’s my rookie year,” Stallings said. “I’m three-fourths of the way through. I’m sitting here just kind of pinching myself every single day to have the opportunity to play out here.”
The Old White TPC underwent a makeover after Stuart Appleby shot 59 in last year’s final round to beat Jeff Overton by a stroke at 22 under. The talk all week had been about how the course’s lengthened tees and reseeded, firm greens would make low scores impossible.
Jimmy Walker, who advanced to weekend play on the cut line, and Kim changed all that.
Walker posted a career-best round 62 and also matched Kim’s birdie total.
“You’ve got nothing to lose when you’re at the back of the pack,” Walker said. “I told my wife last night, let’s go out and attack, see what happens. It worked.”
Those low scores were aided by the course’s setup. Some tees were moved up and many pin placements were favorable compared to Friday, when Phil Mickelson called the course “brutally difficult.”
The field’s scoring average of 69.3 strokes was two better than Friday.
“The greens felt a lot softer today,” Walker said. “You could see they were receptive right off the bat.”
Walker was three strokes out of the lead along with Bill Haas (65) and Chris Couch (67).
Second-round co-leader Brendon de Jonge made two bogeys and a double-bogey on his first seven holes, shot 72 and fell into a group of seven golfers five shots back.
First-round leader Trevor Immelman, seeking his first win since the 2008 Masters, went 23 holes without a bogey before a double bogey on the par-4 13th. He made four bogeys and a birdie after that, shot 73 and trailed by seven strokes.