Los Angeles (AFP) - American Brendan Steele, who hasn't managed a US PGA top-10 finish in nearly two years, fired a six-under par 64 Saturday to seize a three-stroke lead at the Sony Open in Hawaii.
In wet and windy conditions at Honolulu's Waialae Country Club, 403rd-ranked Steele fired his lowest round in three years and matched the week's low round with a six-under par 64 to stand on 12-under 198 after 54 holes.
"I feel like all phases of my game are as good as they've ever been," Steele said.
"I need to stick with everything I'm doing and keep the pedal down, just keep doing what I'm doing and hope it's enough."
Steele closed with three birdies in a row just like Australia's Cameron Smith, who was second on 201 after a 66 with American Kevin Kisner third on 202 after a 64.
Steele, chasing his fourth career title, has made 38 consecutive starts without a top-10 finish since sharing third at the 2018 Phoenix Open.
Steele, 36, has converted only one of four career 54-hole leads into a victory, that coming in his first triumph at the 2011 Texas Open. He also won the 2016 and 2017 Safeway Opens at Napa, California.
Steele missed the green on the way to bogeys at the par-4 third and par-3 fourth, but battled back with a 12-foot birdie at the fifth and eagled the par-5 ninth after dropping his second shot eight feet from the cup.
Steele made birdie putts of 10 feet at the par-3 11th and 23 feet at the par-4 12th, then reeled off a fantastic finish -- a 10-foot birdie putt at 16, a three-foot birdie at the par-3 17th and a tap-in birdie at the par-5 18th in wind and rain.
"I didn't get off to a good start but I didn't think I was making many mistakes," Steele said. "I felt comfortable with what I was doing. I was able to stick with it and it paid off."
Smith found water off the second tee for his lone bogey, then birdied the ninth and closed with birdies on four of the final five holes, his longest effort a 33-foot birdie putt at 17.
He is among the Aussie players donating some of their winnings this week to the brushfire relief effort in his homeland.
The Presidents Cup and US PGA each announced $125,000 donations Saturday to the Australian fire relief effort.
"It's amazing what they are doing. It means a lot to me personally that they are doing that. It's a huge effort from everyone," Aussie veteran Marc Leishman said.
"You do feel helpless. We're over here playing golf for a living and they are fighting for their lives.
"But we're doing what can and donating to that need. They've got homes to rebuild, lives to rebuild, and they need all the help we can give them."
Kisner, who shared second at the 2018 British Open, seeks his fourth title and first since taking last year's WGC Match-Play crown.
"I made more putts than I did the first two days. I've been striking it great," Kisner said. "I felt more comfortable over the ball."