Mexico City: World number two Jon Rahm closed with a 13-foot birdie putt to seize a two-stroke lead after Saturday's third round of the US PGA Mexico Open.
The 27-year-old Spaniard fired a three-under par 68 to stand on 15-under 198 after 54 holes at Vidanta Vallarta resort.
"I played really good golf," Rahm said. "Tee to green was really good."
Rahm seeks his seventh career US PGA title and his first since winning his maiden major last year at the US Open at Torrey Pines.
"It has been a little bit of a while," Rahm said. "So far I'm proud of the way I've played and I can just keep enjoying each moment and hopefully play as solid as I have tee to green, keep hitting fairways, keep hitting greens and just roll a few and hopefully extend that lead."
Clinging to a one-stroke lead, Rahm found a greenside bunker at the par-5 18th, then blasted his third shot to the back of the green and rolled in the clutch birdie putt for his third birdie on the hole in as many days.
"That one on 18 was the first one outside 10 feet I saw roll in," Rahm said. "If I can just keep that going and make putts like I did the first two days, I think tomorrow I'll give myself a really good chance."
That putt restored Rahm to the two-stroke edge he enjoyed when the round began with Americans Kurt Kitayama and Cameron Champ sharing second on 200 after late stumbles.
"My game has felt good. I'm in great spirits, so tomorrow I'm just going to keep doing what I've been doing," Champ said. "I've hit a few shaky shots, but I've just been able to get around and score."
Americans Patrick Rodgers, Nate Lashley and Davis Riley shared fourth on 201 with countryman Alex Smalley seventh on 202 at the long-established event, which makes its US PGA debut this year.
Rahm reached the green in two at the par-5 sixth and two-putted for birdie then drove the green at the 298-yard seventh and tapped in for birdie after missing a 14-foot eagle putt.
The Spaniard found water off the 10th tee and made bogey but answered with a birdie at the par-5 14th, dropping his approach inches from the cup, then closed with a final birdie.
"The only hiccup was the tee shot on 10," Rahm said. "And it wasn't even that bad."
'Embrace the nerves'
Kitayama, seeking his first PGA title, missed the green at the par-3 17th and made bogey to fall off Rahm's pace.
"I feel pretty good about today's round," Kitayama said. "I hit it fairly long out here so that helps. I'm good on the greens. I feel like I'm seeing the line and rolling it well."
Champ had back-to-back bogeys at 15 and 16 after being warned for slow play to drop behind Rahm.
"Just got to embrace the nerves and excitement," Champ said. "Just try to control them the best you can and knowing that all the other guys will be just as nervous as you no matter how many wins they have." -- AFP