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"Boring" Stanley forges five ahead at Torrey Pines

Stanley hits his tee shot on the seventh hole at the Farmers Open PGA golf tournament in San Diego
Stanley hits his tee shot on the seventh hole at the Farmers Open PGA golf tournament in San Diego

By Mark Lamport-Stokes

(Reuters) - Largely sticking to his mantra of playing "boring golf" from tee to green, American Kyle Stanley charged into a commanding five-shot lead at the Farmers Insurance Open after the third round Saturday.

In pursuit of his first victory on the PGA Tour, the big-hitting 24-year-old fired a four-under-par 68 in dazzling sunshine on the challenging South Course at Torrey Pines.

Stanley, a rookie on the U.S. circuit last year who regularly drives the ball more than 320 yards, used his power game and accurate approach play to record five birdies and a lone bogey as he posted an 18-under total of 198.

His 54-hole aggregate equaled the tournament record set by six-times champion Tiger Woods at Torrey Pines in 2008.

"Another really good ball-striking day," the bearded Stanley told reporters. "I drove it pretty well and I only had one hiccup, I hit a five-iron (approach) long on 12. Other than that, I'm really pleased.

"I'm really happy with where I'm at, but I still have to go out there tomorrow and just keep playing golf."

John Huh, competing in only his second PGA Tour event after earning his card at qualifying school in December, returned a 68 to share second place with fellow American John Rollins (68).

South Korean Bae Sang-moon (72) was a further stroke back at 12-under, level with American Bill Haas, last year's FedExCup champion, who carded a 70.

However, no one was able to catch the pacesetting Stanley who began another glorious sun-splashed day at Torrey Pines a stroke in front and then birdied the second and sixth to reach the turn three ahead of the chasing pack.

He rolled in a 10-footer at the par-four 10th to stretch his lead to four before bogeying the par-four 12th after overshooting the green with his five-iron approach from the middle of the fairway.

FOUR-SHOT CUSHION

Non-plussed, the ice-cool Stanley regained his four-shot cushion with a comfortable birdie at the par-five 13th, where he two-putted from just off the green.

He then rammed home a 19-foot birdie putt at the par-three 16th and narrowly missed a five-footer at the par-five last that would have stretched his lead to six strokes.

Before Saturday's third round, Stanley had said his mindset was "to play boring golf ... hit fairways, hit greens and make a few putts." He was delighted with the outcome.

"It was good," said the 24-year-old, whose best PGA Tour finish is a runners-up spot at the 2011 John Deere Classic. "I really didn't get myself in too much trouble."

Asked if he would change his strategy for Sunday's final round, Stanley replied: "The biggest thing is you can't necessarily go out there and try to protect it (the lead). You've got to really just keep doing what got you to this point.

"I'll stick to my game plan off the tee and hopefully just continue to give myself a lot of chances."

Rollins, a three-times winner on the PGA Tour, accepted that the tournament was Stanley's to win or lose.

"He's clearly playing well and in control of his game," Rollins said after making two birdies in his last five holes. "I can only control myself and my game. That's what I'm going to do.

"Just go out and maybe make a few early birdies and try to get some heat on him and see what happens. Anything can happen on this golf course."

Defending champion Bubba Watson carded a 68 to finish at eight under, level with fellow American Dustin Johnson (70) and one better than Britain's Justin Rose (70).

(Reporting by Mark Lamport-Stokes in San Diego; Editing by Patrick Johnston)

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