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Barnes, Piercy lead PGA Tour’s Barbasol Championship

OPELIKA, Ala. (AP) — Playing partners Ricky Barnes and Scott Piercy started the third round with similar birdies and ended it with matching scores — and the lead.

They each shot 6-under 65 on Saturday to share the lead in the PGA Tour’s inaugural Barbasol Championship. Barnes and Piercy reached 13-under 200 on Grand National’s Lake Course, and will be paired together again while jockeying for the top spot Sunday.

The pairing worked well for both in the third round.

“We were both hitting solid shots, giving ourselves good looks,” Barnes said. “And we both got off to a great start. We both holed about an 18-20-footer on the first hole. So we saw balls going in the hole, saw good shots. Not so much competing, but kind of feeding off each other.”

Piercy birdied four of the first five holes. He has won twice on the PGA Tour.

“I’ve won a couple of times where I think a couple of the guys that are up there haven’t won yet,” Piercy. “I think that’s probably a bigger advantage is that I’ve gotten it done a couple of times. Not worried about locking up my card this week or stuff like that is another advantage.”

Count Barnes, who had birdies on Nos. 16 and 17, among the winless. He’s seeking his first PGA Tour win in 202 events.

Barnes came closest to victory with a runner-up finish in the 2009 U.S. Open. That also was the only other time he held or shared a 54-hole lead.

Second-round co-leaders Whee Kim and Mark Hensby were among five players a shot back. Both shot 68 in the event for players who failed to make the British Open field. Jason Gore had a 63, Will Wilcox a 65, and Emiliano Grillo a 67 to join the group at 12 under.

The 43-year-old Hensby, from Australia, surged with a 4-under performance over the final three holes, starting with an eagle on the par-5 16th. He had fallen to 8 under.

He has limited tour status after battling rotator cuff problems in his right shoulder. Hensby won the 2004 John Deere Classic for his only PGA Tour title.

Kim was similarly up and down. He had four birdies on the first nine holes then a five-hole span that included three bogeys and two more birdies.

Gore knocked 10 strokes off his Friday score, when he had five bogeys for a 73. He rebounded with a bogey-free round and birdies on five of the final eight holes.

“Shockingly enough, I was still pretty positive,” said Gore, whose only PGA Tour win came a decade ago. “I knew I wasn’t out of this golf tournament, I was only 5 back as bad as I played (Friday).”

Wilcox, a former UAB star from Birmingham, 6 under over the final nine holes, including an eagle on the par-5 16th. The big reason: “My putter kind of came alive,” he said.

Wilcox might have jitters before his final round but that’s nothing new.

“I’ll be nervous at the start, but I’m pretty much nervous every round I play,” he said. ” Once I get settled in, that’s when I can chill out.”

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