By RICK BROWN
John Deere Classic Correspondent
SILVIS, ILL. – Before every round, Ryan Moore consults with his 3-year-old son, Tucker, for a target score.
“My son keeps telling me the amount of birdies I need to make in the round,” Moore said after a third consecutive 6-under-par 65 gave him a one-shot lead heading into Sunday’s final round of the John Deere Classic . “I don’t think he has any concept of what he’s telling me.”
Moore had to play 34 holes Saturday after rain and delays Thursday and Friday pushed things back. Playing in the final pairing, it was nearly dark when Moore lipped out a 26-footer for birdie on the 18th green. Moore finished his round at 8:26 p.m., 23 minutes after sunset.
“It was fine,” Moore said of the conditions. “The drive was fine, and the second shot was fine. Once we got on the green, if it wouldn’t have been for that giant John Deere sign lit up there, it would have been a little different.”
Moore takes a one-shot lead over Morgan Hoffmann and Ben Martin into Sunday’s final round. Hoffmann birdied six straight holes on the back nine and shot 62. Martin birdied his first five holes, and four of the last five, to match Hoffmann’s 62. Johnson Wagner is in fourth alone, four shots back. Ten players are within six shots of the lead, and Moore knows he needs to make a lot of birdies Sunday when he goes for his fifth career PGA Tour title.
And he hopes Tucker tells him he needs a lot of birdies when they visit Sunday.
“Say nine,” Moore joked. “Say nine.”
Martin’s opening birdie burst was due to a red-hot putter. He made putts of 15 feet 10 inches on No. 1, 10 feet 10 inches on No. 2, 16 feet 3 inches on No. 3, 18 feet 2 inches on No. 4 and 34 feet on No. 5.
Martin’s final birdie was from the fringe, covering 44 feet 5 inches. He had just 23 putts in the round. His made putts covered 152 feet 9 inches.
“You want to keep pace, one shot at a time, but you start thinking low numbers,” Martin said.
There were fireworks aplenty on Saturday. Whee Kim birdied his last five holes and shot a 64. He is at 13 under heading into Sunday. Bud Cauley’s third-round 66 included a 7-under-par 29 on the back nine after his birdie-birdie-eagle-birdie finish. He’s at 12-under 201.
A couple of sponsor’s exemptions made big moves up the leaderboard Saturday.
Leading the charge was reigning NCAA champion Aaron Wise of Oregon. Wise shot a 63 and is at 11 under with a round to go. A shot back is Robby Shelton of Alabama, who shot a 64 and is at 10 under par.
Completing the exemption hat trick is former Illinois star Charlie Danielson. He shot a third-round 66 and heads into the final round at 9-under par. Danielson, 22, highlighted his round with an eagle-2 at the 18th hole (his ninth). And he also avoided two holes that have kept him from being even higher on the leaderboard.
Danielson went double bogey-bogey on No. 7 and No. 8 in the first round. He went bogey-double bogey on those two holes in the second round Friday. He parred those holes Saturday. He is 15 under par over the other 16 holes in this tournament.
Saturday was not a day that 2012 champion Zach Johnson will remember fondly. He shot an even-par 71 in the morning, snapping his streak of 29 consecutive rounds in the 60s at TPC Deere Run. He hadn’t shot in the 70s here since a final-round 71 in 2008.
Things didn’t get any better later in the day. Johnson shot another 71 in the third round Saturday afternoon.
“Frustrating,” Johnson said of his day. “Long. Stale. Just very stale.”
In other words, one of the toughest days Johnson has ever spent at TPC Deere Run.
“For sure,” Johnson said. “That goes without saying, based on previous performances.”
Johnson, the highest-ranked player in the field at 22nd in the World Golf Rankings, did find one positive. “I finished,” Johnson said. “I’m searching for other ones.”
And there is this consolation prize. He’s now shot par or better in 32 consecutive rounds.
Three-time Deere champion Steve Stricker was on the wrong side of the cut line (3- under) with three holes remaining in his second round Saturday morning. But he birdied the 16th and 17th holes to make it to the weekend. Stricker then shot a 3-under 68 in the third round and is 7-under with a round to play.
“We’re not used to playing 36 holes, and I’m old, so it’s even harder,” said Stricker, 49. “I held up all right.”
Another rally came from Patrick Rodgers, who had shot a first-round 65 but came to his 36th hole needing a birdie to make the cut. Rodgers his a 350-yard drive on No. 9 (his 18th) and made a six-foot birdie putt to sneak inside the cut. He then shot a 66 Saturday afternoon and is at 8-under.