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Monday November 29th, 2021 12:16AM

Burns struggles to keep share of Tampa lead with Bradley

By The Associated Press
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PALM HARBOR, Fla. (AP) — Keegan Bradley hit one of his worst shots of the round and it led to eagle. Sam Burns hit a pair of tee shots right where he wanted and they cost him bogeys.

They finished where they started Saturday in the Valspar Championship, tied for the lead, and now they have company from Max Homa.

Both put a positive spin on a sloppy finish at Innisbrook.

Burns had a three-shot lead with five holes remaining, and he had to make an 8-foot bogey putt on the 18th hole for a 2-under 69 just to have a chance at sharing the lead.

“I thought I hit a really good tee shot on 16. It just snuck through the fairway there and just not really a good spot. And then 18, I thought that ball was in the fairway. I think it just kicked dead left and into a bad lie in the bunker,” Burns said.

“I can't change anything from today,” he said. “So tomorrow will be a fresh start and we'll try to work our process and go out there and try to take care of business.”

Bradley, whose chip-in for eagle on the par-5 14th turned his fortunes quickly, was in the middle of the 18th fairway when he came up short in a bunker with a front pin. He blasted out to 7 feet and missed on the low side.

It was the fourth putt from inside 10 feet he missed on the back nine.

“Today could be my best round of the tournament so far. I just didn't hole the putts that I've been making the first two rounds,” Bradley said. “But without doing that, I still shot 69 and I'm still tied for the lead. So all good.”

They were at 14-under 199, tying the 54-hole tournament record set by K.J. Choi in 2002 and matched by Adam Hadwin in 2017.

Homa ran in a birdie putt from just inside 30 feet on the 15th hole, and after a bogey on the tough 16th, he closed out his round of 66 by making a 35-foot bending birdie putt from the fringe on the 18th.

That makes seven putts from 25 feet or longer this week for Homa, and it left him only one shot out of the lead as he goes for his second PGA Tour victory this year.

“Only one time I feel like I was out of position,” Homa said. “Really struck the ball well, kept making putts. So that’s been fun. But just kind of a repeat of last couple days.”

Burns has at least a share of the 54-hole lead for the third time this season. He shot 2-over 72 in the Houston Open to tie for seventh, and his 2-under 69 at Riviera left him one shot out of a playoff at the Genesis Invitational won by Homa.

If the last hour was any indication, it doesn't take much for the Copperhead course at Innisbrook to bite back.

“There's some birdies out there,” Abraham Ancer said after his 66. “But this golf course, if you're not in the right position, man, you can make some bogeys quick.”

And thanks to a few quick bogeys by the leaders, Ancer is suddenly back in the mix. He was in the group at 10-under 203, along with Ted Potter Jr. (63), Joaquin Niemann (67) and Cameron Tringale (67).

Niemann began his week in the same group as Dustin Johnson and Justin Thomas, Nos. 1 and 2 in the world, who are no longer part of the equation. Thomas had a 67 and was eight shots behind. Johnson took double bogey on the 16th and 18th holes for a 74 and will be out of town before the final group tees off.

Paul Casey's bid for a third consecutive win at the Valspar Championship is gone, too. He shot 72 and was 12 shots out of the lead.

The top three all made eagle during a sweltering Saturday, all in different fashion.

It started with Burns, who sent a 3-hybrid soaring with such height that it pitched in front of the first hole and settled 30 inches away for a tap-in eagle. Burns also made a 35-foot birdie putt on the third hole and hit a tough bunker shot to 10 feet for birdie on the fifth.

Burns didn't make another birdie over the final 13 holes.

The lead was three shots when Bradley missed a par putt on the 13th hole. But on the par-5 14th, Bradley went for the green and came up short and to the right. He chipped in for eagle, and on the next hole, and two holes later, Burns bogeyed the 16th.

Homa made his eagle the hard way, holing out with a gap wedge from 138 yards on the sixth hole, which only yielded eight birdies the entire round.

Homa started the round four shots behind Burns and Bradley, and he fell seven shots back after the opening four holes. That didn't bother him.

“I just knew if I posted 4 under-ish I would at least have a chance tomorrow, but that's all you can do out here,” Homa said. “The moment you try to shoot 8 (under), you're in trouble. So yeah, feels good to have a chance.”

___

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