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Smith, 2 others share lead in Raleigh
Raleigh, NC (SportsNetwork.com) - Byron Smith fired an 8-under 63 on Saturday and he jumped into a share of the lead after three rounds of the Rex Hospital Open.
Smith ended 54 holes at 11-under-par 202. He was joined there by Hunter Haas (67) and second-round leader Harold Varner III (70).
Roberto Diaz (67) and Scott Gardiner (68) share fourth place at minus-10 at TPC Wakefield Plantation.
Nathan Tyler (68) and Ryan Blaum (69) are tied for sixth at 8-under-par 205.
Varner was in control most of the round. He got going with birdies on two and four to move to 12-under. After four pars in a row, he jumped to minus-14 with back-to-back birdies at nine and 10.
However, it was all downhill from there. Varner, who led by three after 10 holes, struggled to three bogeys in a 4-hole span from the 12th to tumble back to minus-11. He parred out to end there.
"It wasn't a bad day. The score wasn't what I wanted, but I still have a share of the lead. I've never been in this situation. I need to learn how to handle my emotions when I'm coming off a bogey," Varner explained.
Smith was on fire from the start as he poured in four consecutive birdie chances from the second. He faltered to a bogey on the par-4 seventh, but atoned for that mistake with a birdie on the ninth.
The four-time winner on the PGA Tour Canada birdied the 11th and 13th to move to minus-9. Smith followed with birdies at the 15th and 17th to get to 11- under. He finished there with a par at the last.
"I didn't have a number in mind at all. I knew I was seven back and that anywhere in the five-six-seven (under par) range would put me in the mix. I knew if we just got the putter rolling we'd be all right," Smith said. "It was good today because I didn't know how many under I was. I just stayed in that cruise control mentality and let everything come to me. I was on a good one, but chose not to focus on the numbers."
Haas, a four-time winner on the Web.com Tour, birdied both front nine par-5s, the fourth and ninth, to make the turn at minus-9.
Around the turn, Haas climbed to 11-under with birdies on the 12th and 14th. Haas closed his bogey-free round with four pars in a row.
"I'm kind of surprised. You've got to be patient out there and you've got to hit some tee balls. There's some trouble out there and guys are finding it," stated Haas. "The greens are big and fast and you can have some 40-footers. That's a realistic birdie opportunity."
NOTES: Smith missed the course record by one stroke, but it was his career low round on the Web.com Tour ... Haas last won on tour at the 2010 Boise Open.
05/24 21:24:58 ET