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Len Ziehm On Golf

JDC: Hot threesome is combined 24-under; Brown posts 61

SILVIS, IL. – If ever there was a day for low scoring it was in Saturday’s third round of the John Deere Classic. The course was softened by an overnight downpour, and the lift, clean and place rule was put into effect. Only a light breeze factored into the playing conditions on what has been one of the easiest course on the PGA Tour over the years.

Only one threesome, though, really took the ideal conditions to heart. Scott Brown, Jhonattan Vegas and Daniel Summerhays started the day in the middle of the pack and climbed the leaderboard fast.

Brown posted the best round of the week, a 10-under-par 61 that matched the low round on the PGA Tour in 2014 and was the lowest third round in JDC history. Vegas, in danger of losing his playing privileges after enduring shoulder surgery, carded a 63 and Summerhays included two eagles in a round of 65. One of those eagles came off the shot of the day – an approach that caromed off a Shot Link tower behind the No. 5 green and rolled into the cup.

“Best eagle I’ve ever seen,’’ said Vegas, who got the party started with birdies on the first three holes. As a group the threesome was 24 under par and had a best ball of 57 on the par-71 course.

Brown, whose only PGA Tour victory came at last year’s Puerto Rico Open, made 10 birdies and was surprised that there weren’t more low scores.

“Scores are always low here,’’ said Brown, “and the course was drier than I thought it would be. We could have played the ball down easily.’’

Brown was on 59 watch after going to 9-under with a 10-foot birdie putt at No. 15. He had another 10-footer for eagle at the par-5 17th but misfired and, though he tapped in for birdie, his chances at become the seventh player in PGA Tour history to dip under 60 were gone.

The 44-year old tournament didn’t have two such hot scores in a round since Paul Goydos shot 59 and Steve Stricker 60 in the first round in 2010. Like Vegas, Goydos has been playing on a medical exemption and this JDC could be his last tournament on the PGA Tour if he doesn’t finish high in Sunday’s final round.

Vegas, who had shoulder surgery in February of 2012, has three tournaments left on his medical exemption status. He needs to earn $281,000 in those events to keep his PGA Tour card and could get it with a high finish on Sunday.

“I’m trying to win a golf tournament. That’s my mentality,’’ said Vegas. “I’ll just play golf and whatever happens, happens.’’

As good as they were on Saturday, Brown and Vegas have plenty of work to do if they’re to claim the $846,000 winner’s check on Sunday. Brian Harman, a left-handed golfer, and three-time winner Stricker were almost as good as they were on Saturday in landing spots in the final twosome of the final round. It’ll be Harman’s first experience in a final group pairing on the PGA Tour.

Bolstered by eagle puts of 29 feet at No. 2 and 47 feet at No. 17, Harman carded a 6-under 65 on Saturday to open a one-shot lead on Stricker, who shot 64. Harman is at 17-under 196 through 54 holes. Brown is solo third, another shot back, and Vegas is in a tie for eighth.

Third-round co-leaders Zach Johnson and William McGirt shot 69s and dropped into a four-way tie for fourth. Defending champion Jordan Spieth shot 67 and is tied for 14th. Spieth is six shots off the lead, the same deficit he faced after 54 holes last year before he took the title in a three-man five-hole playoff.