Front-runner Hal Sutton, despite some erratic drives and a balky putter, still managed to shoot a three-under-par 68 and stretch his lead to four strokes Saturday in the third round of the $500,000 Phoenix Open golf tournament.
"It could have been a lot lower," the former PGA champion said. "I had some opportunities I didn't capitalize on."
Sutton, who shot 64s the first two days, had a three-round total of 196 on the the Phoenix Country Club course, 17 under par and the lowest 54-hole total on the PGA Tour since Larry Nelson had the same score in the 1984 Walt Disney World Open.
Even with a four-shot lead, he said he is taking nothing for granted going into today's final round of the chase for a $90,000 first prize.
"If I lay back, rest on my laurels, try to play par golf, somebody is going to come out and catch me," said the man who, in 12 rounds this year, has made 67 birdies. "I'm going to play aggressively. I'm going to try to make as many birdies as I can."
Veteran Howard Twitty, a Phoenix native, could do no better than a 70 in the warm, sunny weather but retained second place at 200.
"I never could get started. I just couldn't get anything going," Twitty said.
Calvin Peete, the defending titleholder, ran a 173-yard, 5-iron shot into the cup for an eagle-2 on the 11th hole and was five shots off the pace.
Peete, who had a 68, was tied with 1985 leading money-winner Curtis Strange, Australian Greg Norman, Ronnie Black and Tony Sills. Sills and Strange each had a 65, Norman a 66 and Black a 69.
Jack Nicklaus, not in contention, drove the green on the 320-yard, par-4 fifth hole and made a long putt for an eagle-2, the highlight of a 69 that left him at 210.
Sutton, who had a two-shot lead when the round started, struggled and scrambled out of rough and from behind trees over the first seven holes but was two under par for the day until he made his first bogey of the tournament on the eighth.
He saved par from difficult positions on the 10th and 12th holes, then pulled away from Twitty with a 20-foot birdie putt on the 14th and a 12-footer on the 15th.
He bogeyed the 16th after a poor drive, then got the shot back with a 9-iron approach that left him a 40-inch putt on the 17th.
Barb Thomas, who has never finished better than fourth in her three years on the LPGA Tour, shot a six-under-par 66 and emerged with a one-stroke lead heading into the final round of the $200,000 Mazda tournament at Boca Raton, Fla.
The best round of her professional career gave Thomas a 54-hole total of 208 over the 6,368-yard course at the new Stonebridge Golf and Country Club.
Sally Little also came out of the pack in the third round, shooting a 67 to take second place at 209.
Robin Walton was at 210 after a third-round 71, and defending champion Hollis Stacy was joined at 211 by Val Skinner, Patty Sheehan and Sandra Palmer.