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Bradley, Murray top congested leaderboard at Sony

Bradley, Murray top congested leaderboard at Sony

HONOLULU — Keegan Bradley birdied his last two holes Saturday for a 7-under 63, giving him a share of the lead with Grayson Murray in a Sony Open that is far from a two-man race.

Six players were within three shots of the lead, typical for Waialae. It was so chaotic on a gorgeous afternoon up the shores from Waikiki that 10 players had at least a share of the lead at some point in the third round.

Getting some separation was tough, though Bradley and Murray at least got a little.

Bradley hit a cut 6-iron to a back pin to 6 feet for birdie on the par-3 17th, and then his tee shot on the par-5 closing hole avoided the bunker. He had a good enough lie to get it on the green for a two-putt birdie.

That put him at 14-under 196. Murray soon joined him, getting up-and-down from the bunker left of the 18th green for his 64.

They led by one shot over Sam Stevens, who had a 63.

Among those still in the mix is Chris Kirk (67). He won The Sentry last week and at three shots behind can still entertain hopes of joining Justin Thomas in 2017 and Ernie Els in 2004 to sweep the Hawaii swing.

Bradley, a former PGA champion, will be trying to win for the third time in the last 16 months. He will be in the final group with Murray, a raw talent who went to three colleges and was battling alcohol problems three years ago, including one incident in Honolulu.

He thinks he has turned the corner, and he took plenty of inspiration from Kirk, who also had to step away from golf in 2019 to address alcoholism and depression.

“I’ve obviously been vocal about the alcohol use in the past. I’m over eight months sober now. I have a beautiful fiancée that I love so much and who is so supportive of me, and my parents are so supportive of me,” Murray said.

“Just makes everything so easy when I got out here inside the ropes when everyone is just in my circle just really pulling for me,” he said. “They’re right there with me when I do have those hard days — and I still have hard days, but I feel a lot more at peace inside the ropes now.”

The group at 11-under 199 includes Matthieu Pavon of France, one of 10 players to earn PGA Tour cards through the European tour points list last year. Pavon ran off five straight birdies at the end of his second round, and he was among those leading on Saturday until he settled into a string of pars and one bogey on the back.

And then there’s Taiga Semikawa of Japan, playing on a Sony Open sponsor exemption. He is among 21 players on the Japan Golf Tour with the name Taiga. It doesn’t translate to “tiger” but it is pronounced that way, and it’s no coincidence.

The majority of those players are 26 or younger, which dates to 1997, when Tiger Woods shattered records and brought new energy to golf.

“Yes, I was named after Tiger Woods and I kind of took on the way he plays,” Semikawa said through a translator. “I grew up watching his aggressive style, and I think that kind of fits my personality and is something I try to replicate in my own game.”

One example was from a fairway bunker on the 14th that Semikawa hit out of to 10 feet. That started a closing stretch of four birdies over his last five holes.

Semikawa never bothered looking at a leaderboard during or after his round. He celebrated his 23rd birthday on Thursday and would appear to be having the time of his life.

For so many others, Sunday will be a time to make birdies and keep going.

“It’s a tricky thing because you can’t be staring at the leaderboard all day,” Bradley said. “If you make a bogey or a few pars in a row, you can go from leading to 12th in a second. I’ve got to go out tomorrow and probably shoot another pretty low one to win.”