COOLUM, Australia – K.T. Kim played steadily over the back nine while other challengers fell around him, shooting a bogey-free 5-under 67 Saturday to take a one-stroke lead over Bubba Watson into the final round of the Australian PGA.
Kim, who played for the losing International side at the Presidents Cup at Royal Melbourne last week, had a 54-hole total of 13-under 203 at the Hyatt Regency resort course.
Watson, who held the lead for part of the third round, double-bogeyed the par-5 15th with two bad chips out of the rough to finish with a 69 after eagling the opening par-5 first.
Despite winning his last two matches at the Presidents Cup, Kim said he wasn’t expecting a lot at Coolum.
“My expectations coming into this week were quite low,” the Korean said through an interpreter. “Off the practice tee on Tuesday and then the pro-am on Wednesday, I sort of thought that this wasn’t my type of course. So I have over-exceeded my expectations so far.
“The bigger part of it is you don’t really need to crush it off on the tee, so for a guy like me it is more about accuracy. But I still have got a very long day tomorrow, although I am not feeling a lot of pressure.”
Watson had an eventful 18th, pulling his tee shot into the rough, then hitting a shot with his rescue club into the green which ricocheted into a marquee, off a spectator and bounced into rough near the green. But the American got up and down for par to stay within one of Kim.
Watson wasn’t happy having to wait 20 minutes on the 18th tee – “for twosomes to be waiting that long is weird.”
Then he had to cool his heels for about 15 minutes in the media center while Kim had an elongated interview with an interpreter.
But Watson was pleased to save par on the final hole.
“I actually had a shot, I thought the wind was going to push it,” Watson said of his approach on 18. “I only had a 52-degree wedge … tried to hit it real high so the wind would push it, and it didn’t push it and it hit the guy in the chest, I was told, and kicked it by the green.
“Making par there to keep me still in it, to make dinner taste better … making that putt was good for sure.”
Australian Rod Pampling, with a 66, the best round of the day, was tied for ninth, six strokes behind Kim.
American Rickie Fowler, making his first appearance as a professional in Australia, shot 70 and was tied for 22nd, nine behind.
British Open champion Darren Clarke had an awful day, shooting 79, prompting him to tweet: “Sometimes golf is easy, sometimes golf is tough but today I was brutal!! lovemyjob.” He was 5 over and tied for 61st of 66 golfers who made the cut.