RALEIGH, N.C. – Danny Lee fired an 8-under 63 Saturday and vaulted into the lead after 54 holes of the Rex Hospital Open on the Web.com Tour. Lee, from New Zealand, chalked up eight birdies at TPC Wakefield Plantation to get to 17 under par and four strokes in front of the pack.
Rookie Andrew Putnam, the first-round leader, bounced back with a 5-under 66 Saturday to reach 13 under, and is tied with Edward Loar (67).
Michael Putnam, the tour’s leading money winner and older brother of Andrew, shares fourth place with second-round leader Chesson Hadley.
Putnam posted a 6-under 65 that featured back-to-back eagles, while Hadley needed an eagle and two late birdies for his 2-under 69.
Josh Broadaway (65) is at 11 under and solo sixth, six back of the leader.
“I thought everybody was playing good so I was just focusing on each shot and trying to make as many birdies as possible,” said Lee, who hit 17 greens in regulation. “I shot 8 under, what could go wrong?”
Not a whole lot, as he and the rest of the field fired at player-friendly hole locations. Saturday’s scoring average of 69.682 is the lowest at TPC Wakefield Plantation since 2011.
The 22-year-old Lee has been close several times this year, but hasn’t been able to get back into the winner’s circle. His only tour win came at the 2011 WNB Golf Classic.
“I don’t want to think ahead right now. This is only the third round,” said Lee, who has six top-25 finishes in 12 starts and came into the week No. 23 on the money list. “I just want to play another round of golf and see what happens.”
What happened Saturday was an assault on par from every direction.
Broadaway made some early noise when he eagled the par-4 10th from the heavy round. Shortly thereafter, Michael Putnam rocketed into the lead when he played four holes in 6 under par.
He reached 12 under to take the lead, where he was quickly joined by Loar and then by Lee. Putnam did little damage from there, playing the inward nine in even-par.
Everyone gave chase, but none could catch Lee, who steadily increased his lead on the back and nearly holed his second shot for eagle at 18 before tapping in for his final birdie.
For the final round, Lee will be paired with Andrew Putnam, a rookie on tour looking to join his brother as a champion.
--Danny Lee has held the 54-hole lead only once in his Web.com Tour career. He led at the 2012 WNB Golf Classic and fired an even-par 72 at the Midland (TX) Country Club to finish tied for second.
--Lee has made nine of 12 cuts this year and has three top-10 finishes. His best week was a tie for sixth at the Chile Classic in Santiago.
--Michael Putnam became only the second player in tournament history to register back-to-back eagles. Putnam put a 2-3 combination on the scorecard for holes 3-4. Putnam holed a wedge from 100 yards on the par-4 third hole and then canned a 20-foot eagle putt on the par-5 fourth hole. The only other player to have consecutive eagles in the tournament’s 20-year history was Donnie Hammond in the third round in 2003 (Nos. 12-13).
--Prior to this year, only two players in tournament history have recorded two eagles in a single round – Hammond in 2005 and Tyler Williamson in 2007. That total is now up to four, thanks to the Putnam brothers. Andrew had two eagles on par 5s in Thursday’s opening round and big brother Michael had a pair of eagles on the front nine on Saturday.
--Leading money winner Michael Putnam put his name on the leaderboard with a 6-under 65 that got him to 12 under for the week. Putnam did all over his damage early on the front nine with an eagle-eagle-birdie-birdie run starting at No. 3.
“It’s probably the best four-hole stretch I’ve ever had,” he said. “I don’t know if I’ve ever had two eagles in a row.”
Putnam nearly made it three in a row at the par-3 fifth hole, but his ball stopped about four feet from the cup.
The 2013 tour’s only two-time winner this year had a share of the lead at 12 under when he made the turn.
“It’s a tough back nine here,” he said. “I haven’t really played the back nine very well all week. It’s tough to make birdies.”
Putnam is collectively 11 under on the front and just 1 under on the back with two birdies and one bogey.
“It was nice to get back in the mix of the tournament for tomorrow.”
--Jim Renner recorded the second ace of the week, making a hole-in-one at the 201-yard 12th hole using a 5-iron. It was Renner’s fourth career ace, but his first in competition. He managed to hit only 7 of 14 fairways Saturday and shot a 2-under 69 to sit tied for 15th.
--Clemson grad Ben Martin moved into contention with a 6-under 65 that put him at 10-under 203. He is tied for seventh heading into the final round and looking to crack the top 25 on the money list. Martin had made 8 of 11 cuts prior to this week and came in at No. 30 on the money list. His only top-10 finish this season was a tie for eighth at the Stadion Classic at UGA.
--Rookie Randall Hutchison also moved up the board with a 5-under 66. The 26-year-old from Michigan is at 8-under 205 and tied for 15th. Hutchison opened his rookie campaign with a tie for 13th at the Panama Claro Championship but had missed the cut in nine of his next 10 starts, including six in a row before turning the tables this week.
--A win by Michael Putnam on Sunday would be worth $112,500 and push his season total above the $400,000 mark. His season total would increase to $466,734, which would give him the fourth-highest single-season total with 12 events remaining on the 2013 schedule.