HILTON HEAD ISLAND, S.C. — Charley Hoffman thought he was through with Harbour Town Golf Links and the RBC Heritage. Turns out, he just wasn't ready as a younger player to handle one of the PGA Tour's trickiest layouts.
Hoffman missed the cut his first time here in 2006, then didn't do much better the next visit, going 72-80 on the weekend in 2009, and took it off his schedule for good. But Hoffman has found a new appreciation and success at Harbour Town that has him 18 holes away from his third career tour victory.
Hoffman had four birdies his first five holes Saturday to shoot 5-under 66 for a two-stroke lead at 11-under 202 over U.S. Open champion Webb Simpson.
"I would say I wasn't mature enough to play this golf course," Hoffman said Saturday. "I didn't understand how to play it. I guess I would get frustrated when I hit the fairway and didn't have a shot at the green."
Hoffman, 36, has learned his way around Harbour Town like few others. The renaissance began last year with a second-round 65 that led to an eighth-place finish. Hoffman opened play with 66 Thursday, moved into a three-way tie for the top Friday and took control with his hot start in the third round.
"Yeah, it was definitely the best playing round I've had in a long time," he said.
He'll need one more to hold off those chasing him. Simpson, bidding for his first victory since winning his major at Olympic Club, finished with a bogey-free 65, tying the lowest round of the tournament.
Kevin Streelman, who won his first tour title last month at the Tampa Bay Championships in Palm Harbor, shot 69 and was alone in third at 8 under.
The round started with 91 players making the cut, tying the tour high set in 1981 at the Travelers Championship. Jesper Parnevik moved the cut line Saturday morning to 2 over as he missed a 5-footer to complete his rain-delayed second round and opened the door for 21 players to keep playing.
Brendon de Jonge and Graeme McDowell were tied at 7 under, four shots off the lead.
LPGA: Suzann Pettersen won the LOTTE Championship in Kapolei, Hawaii, beating Lizette Salas with a par on the first hole of a playoff after Salas chunked her approach shot in the water.
Pettersen, the leader after the second and third rounds, bogeyed the final hole of regulation to set up the playoff on the par-4 18th. The Norwegian closed with 5-under 67, and Salas had a tournament-record 62 to finish at 19-under 269.
Seminole's Brittany Lincicome (73) finished at 3-under 285. Tampa resident Kristy McPherson (73) finished at 288.
CHAMPIONS: Esteban Toledo, a rookie looking for his first win on tour, has a one-stroke lead heading into the final round of the Greater Gwinnett Championship in Duluth, Ga. Toledo of Mexicali, Mexico, shot 68 in the weather-delayed first round before posting 2-under 70 for 6-under 138.