James Hahn hits out of a bunker on the 2nd hole in the second round of the Masters Tournament at Augusta National Golf Club in Augusta, Georgia. File photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI | License Photo
IRVING, Texas -- James Hahn is feeling fine and in a bit of a groove after going low and without a bogey for the second of his three rounds this week at the AT&T Byron Nelson.
It's a feeling that Hahn has created by sticking to a strategy that's focused on limited low-percentage shots and taking what he's being given by a course that rewards accuracy and consistency.
Hahn, the first-round co-leader, used a bogey-free 64 to sweep into a one-shot lead after the third round on Saturday at the TPC Las Colinas in this northwest suburb of Dallas.
Hahn is at 12-under-par 198 while former FedExCup champion Billy Horschel is one stroke back after a 66 that featured birdies on the final three holes.
World No. 3 Jason Day of Australia had eight birdies in a round of 7-under 63 to move into a tie for third with second-round leader Jason Kokrak (72) and is two back of the lead at 10-under 200, while Cameron Tringale (67) is alone in fifth at 201.
Defending champion and recent Masters titlist Sergio Garcia fired a 64 on Saturday to get to 202 and into a tie for sixth with former Byron Nelson champion Jason Dufner (65) and Bud Cauley (68). Garcia shot 29 on the back nine Saturday, the same score he posted on the front nine in the opening round when he won in 2016.
Five players, including Scott Brown (65), Scott Piercy (66), Grayson Murray (68), Chad Campbell (68) and Byeong Hun An of South Korea (69), are at 203 and within striking distance.
The 35-year-old Hahn, who has won twice on the PGA Tour (most recently the Wells Fargo Championship in 2016), used the rain-softened and relatively windless conditions to roll to the lead with his second round of the week without a bogey. He had six birdies on Saturday (three on each side) and birdied each of the two par-5s.
"You don't really have to overpower this golf course," Hahn said. You definitely have to keep it in play. Today I feel like I only hit four or five drivers. A lot of the holes are really about positioning for the second shot. For the longer hitters out there, they can't really take advantage and use their strength on this golf course. They're definitely laying back to kind of where we play from. It kind of brings the rest of the field in.
Hahn said he won't fret while sleeping on the lead, even with 12 players within five strokes.
"Tell me what my tee time is tomorrow and I'll just show up," he said. "There's a lot on the line but I feel like when I'm on the golf course there's a different animal that comes out and I get very competitive. There are some big names that are behind me so I wouldn't be surprised if someone jumps out going, four or five under in the first seven holes or so and to have to play catch-up."
Hahn also shot 64 in the opening round and used just 29 putts, the same number he had on Saturday. The strategy he's used the first three days should suit him well as a front-runner.
"I feel like anytime I'm in the fairway with any club, really, that it's a good chance for me to hit it in there 10, 15 feet and try to make a putt for birdie," Hahn explained. "The nerves I can control -- it's making the right decisions and just trying to judge the wind correctly and when to hit the ball, where to aim and the little things that kind of make up the difference between shooting 64 or 70."
Horschel, who hasn't won since September 2014 when he captured the Tour Championship in Atlanta, has a pair of top-10 finishes this year and is ranked 76th in the world.
"It's great to be back in the final group -- it's been a little while," Horschel said. "The last four, six weeks haven't been ideal for me. I've been working hard and keeping believing. I feel like my game is in the spot it needs to be to win again. We go out there with the same mindset we've had the last few days and see where we are on Sunday."
World No. 1 Dustin Johnson carded a 71 and fell seven shots off the pace at 5-under 205.
"Mentally I'm fine, and physically I'm fine, too," Johnson said. "I'm not as sharp as I was, obviously, before the Masters and it's going to take a little time to get back in that kind of rhythm but I'm seeing good signs. I'm just going to keep working on it."
NOTES: The course received about one-quarter inch of rain overnight from storms that ravaged some other areas of the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex. ... South Africa's Charl Schwartzel withdrew from the tournament after 14 holes because of a wrist injury. ... The 54-hole leader/co-leader has won just four times in the last nine years at the AT&T Byron Nelson (Adam Scott of Australia in 2008, Jason Dufner in 2012, Brendon Todd in 2014 and Steven Bowditch of Australia in 2015). ... The third-round leader/co-leader has won 10 times in 26 stroke-play events this season, most recently Kevin Chappell at the Valero Texas Open. ... The largest come-from-behind victory after 54 holes at the AT&T Byron Nelson is four strokes: Keegan Bradley (2011), John Cook (1998), Bob Eastwood (1985) and Lanny Wadkins (1973). ... The par-3 fourth hole played the toughest on Day 3 with a 4.419 average. The par-5 16th hole played the easiest at 4.338.