Rookie Kirk leads Viking Classic

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A six-birdie burst on the closing stretch of Saturday’s third round has given rookie Chris Kirk the lead at the Viking Classic.

A six-birdie burst on the closing stretch of Saturday’s third round has given PGA Tour rookie Chris Kirk the lead at the Viking Classic.

The 26-year-old American posted a sparkling 8-under 64 to take his 36-hole total to an 18-under 198 and grab a one-shot edge over a four-strong group in second place that included Americans DJ Trahan, who won the Viking Classic in 2006, and George McNeil, Australian Peter Lonard and South Korea’s Kang Sung-hoon.

The downpours that had interrupted the first and second rounds had softened up the greens at the Annandale Golf Club in Madison, Mississippi and in a high scoring event some 24 players are within five shots of the leader heading into Sunday’s final round.

Jim Renner, like Kirk, a new-comer to PGA Tour golf, shot a day’s best 62 and now in sixth place and just two shots off the the pace, he might be one of Kirk’s most dangerous pursuers in an event missing many of the Tour’s big guns, who, this week, are playing in the Open Championship in England.

“I played a little more aggressive and I got rewarded,” Renner said in explanation of his 62..

Kirk.meanwhile, is aware that because the course is bleeding birdies he will have to go low to stay out in front.

“If I don’t go out and make a bunch more birdies tomorrow I’m not going to be in the lead for long,” he said. “You know you have to stay aggressive. You can’t just play for par. That’s not going to work.”

Kang played the first 14 holes of his third round in a sizzling eight-under par boosted by an eagle on the par-5 11th hole, to move into the outright lead.

But he made a bogey on the par-4 17th then drove his tee shot into the water on the par-5 18th and while he could only manage a par, Kirk squeezed past him with a birdie at the laast.

The Top 10 leaderboard

198 Chris Kirk (US) 67 67 64
199 Kang Sung-hoon (Kor) 65 70 64, D.J. Trahan (US) 68 65 66, George McNeill (US) 67 65 67, Peter Lonard (Australia) 65 65 69
200 Jim Renner (US) 69 69 62, Tom Pernice Jr. (US) 66 67 67, Hunter Haas (US), 66 64 70
201 Bud Cauley (US) 68 67 66, Chez Reavie (US) 66 68 67, Tommy Gainey (US) 67 67 67, Blake Adams (US) 72 62 67, Kevin Kisner (US) 68 64 69

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