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Packed leaderboard sets up Sunday shootout at Shriners

Moving day on the PGA Tour is traditionally when a handful of players separate from the pack to set up a final-round showdown. Not at the Shriners Children’s Open.

Seventeen players will begin Sunday within three shots of the lead – the second-largest number at any tournament this season –with defending champion Tom Kim, Adam Hadwin and Lanto Griffin setting the pace at 15-under 198.

“You know, don’t move back, make as many birdies as possible,” Hadwin said of the final-round game plan. “If the wind is similar to today, I feel like we’re going to be in for a shootout.”

Hadwin is part of what seemed like the Canadian Open had broken out at TPC Summerlin. He is one of four Canadians in contention, joined by Taylor Pendrith (14 under), Adam Svensson (13 under) and Nick Taylor (12 under) chasing the title.

“What a fantastic start to the fall for the Canadian contingent, obviously,” Hadwin said. “It’s been an unbelievable year for Canadian golf in general, so hopefully one of us can put our name on the trophy tomorrow.”

None of the four had an explanation for the group’s success this week in Las Vegas.

“Not where I’m from,” joked Pendrith about any similarities between TPC Summerlin and the Canadian courses they grew up playing.

The leaderboard features a wide collection of players, from veterans with multiple wins like Ryan Moore and J.T. Poston to relative unknowns like Vince Whaley and Isaiah Salinda to six players looking for a second win and a host of others looking to secure their playing privileges for 2024.

And despite the crowd at the top, the defending champion and highest-ranked player in the field is the player everyone has their eye on.

Kim had nine birdies and an eagle in matching the low round of the day with a 62, and he said every aspect of his game was working on Saturday – a scary thought for his peers.

“You know, tee to green, I was really solid. Gave myself a lot of looks,” he said. “Obviously you’ve got to finish them off, and that’s exactly what I did. I putted great.”

Kim said he believes it’s anybody’s game on Sunday.

“I feel like you’ve just got to keep your head down, make as many as you can, because once you start looking at the leaderboard and you see guys making birdies, you feel like, ‘Oh, man, I need to start making birdies,’ and you start forcing things and almost go the opposite way,” he said. “That’s exactly what I did last year.”

Griffin will be fighting a few nerves being in contention for the first time in two years, a period when most of his time has been spent recovering from back surgery followed by a broken rib. He said he’s planning a conservative approach to his final round, laying back off the tees and relying on his iron game and putter to carry him.

That same plan Saturday netted him 15 pars and three birdies.

“The goal is just going to be to have a chance on the back nine, and whether I win or finish 20th, there’s going to be a lot of positives from this week to build off of,” he said. “Regardless of what happens tomorrow, momentum is — I feel like I’ve already won momentum this week, and hopefully tomorrow the putts drop.”

Greg Robertson covers golf for the Review-Journal. Reach him at grobertson@reviewjournal.com.

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