RALEIGH — Just when it appeared Chesson Hadley might be locking down the lead in the Rex Hospital Open on Saturday, he didn’t.
Instead, Hadley backed up. The Raleigh native still has a chance to win the Web.com Tour tournament at TPC Wakefield Plantation, but he’ll have to do it in what might be a mad dash to the finish line Sunday by a lot of players.
K.H. Lee of South Korea, who had a 4-under 67 to finish at 12-under-201, will take a one-shot lead over former Texas A&M golfer Conrad Shindler into the final round. Hadley, once three shots in front Saturday, was two shots behind at 10-under 203 after a 67 and there were another seven players at 9-under 204.
“It’s tight,” Shindler said after a third-round 65. “It doesn’t matter where everyone is on the money list. Everyone’s got a chance to win that’s in the hunt.”
At one point Saturday, Hadley was making so many birdies the 2013 Rex champion couldn’t keep track of them all.
Hadley birdied the first and fourth holes, then reeled off five in a row beginning at the seventh hole.
“Did I really make five in a row?” Hadley said after the round.
Reminded of the streak of holes, he smiled and said, “I was a blackout out there. I had no idea. So I did make a few (putts).
“But if was being honest, I still didn’t like the way they rolled or the way they started. They just went in.”
Seven under par for the round after 11 holes, he was 13-under for the tournament and three shots in front. He also was being urged on by one of the largest galleries at Wakefield, all pulling for the hometown guy.
“It was awesome,” he said. “It’s so easy to make birdies and get momentum when you have such a great crowd following you and supporting you.”
But Hadley missed the green at the par-3 12th and bogeyed. A wayward drive at the par-4 14th resulted in a double bogey and he had slipped back to 10-under.
“My putting was honestly pretty bad today,” Hadley said. “I’ve got to find a way to make some putts if I’m to win this tournament.”
Lee, 25, held the 54-hole in the Corales Puntacana Resort and Club Championship this year in the Dominican Republic but tied for eighth after a final-round 72. It was his only top-10 finish of the year.
Shindler, 28, also has one top-10 finish this year, in Panama. He came to the Rex having missed the cut in three of his last four starts but has been steady at Wakefield.
Shindler eagled the par-5 ninth hole Saturday, reaching the green in two with a 5-iron and rolling in a 15-footer. He had four birdies and did not bogey a hole in a very tidy 65.
But Hadley, who held the first-round lead after a 64, was the story of the day — for the good and the bad.
“I need to do some putting and some hitting and then some sleeping, and then we’ll do it again,” Hadley said. “If I’m seven under through 11 holes again tomorrow, I like my chances.”
Seven under through 18 might be even better.