PALM HARBOR — The third round-leaderboard at the Valspar Championship was topped by a pair of players hoping for their first PGA Tour win and some wily veterans trying to add to their resumes.
At the top was second-round leader Adam Hadwin, who for the second straight day mastered Innisbrook's Copperhead Course and finished with 4-under 67 for a four-shot lead over Patrick Cantlay at 14-under 199. Hadwin tied the tournament 54-hole record set by K.J. Choi in 2002, and his four-stroke lead through three rounds was the biggest since Choi led by five in 2002.
Cantlay had the low round of the day, a bogey-free 5-under 66. It was his second straight 66.
First-round leader Jim Herman shot his second straight par 71 and was five back. Dominic Bozzelli, a fourth-year pro who is 233rd in the world rankings, shot 70 was fourth at 8 under.
Established players Henrik Stenson (71) and J.J. Henry (67) were seven shots back, and defending champ Charl Schwartzel (67) was at 6 under with Lucas Glover (69).
Hadwin shot his third straight round in the 60s.
"It was a great day," he said. "My goal every week is to have a chance on Sunday coming up the last hole. I've been playing some good golf, so my focus (today) is to have a chance."
Should Hadwin continue his hot play, he would not only win for the first time, but he would be within striking distance of the tournament record of 18 under set by Vijay Singh in 2004.
Hadwin started the day alone in the lead at 10 under. He birdied the first and seventh holes to make the turn at 12 under. Then came a long birdie putt at No. 12 and a 55-foot birdie putt on No. 15 to keep the momentum going. He had a nice par save from the fringe on 18 to stay four shots up.
Though no lead is safe, a four shot lead is a big cushion on the tour.
"Guys are going to have to shoot a good score to catch me," Hadwin said. "If I can keep playing solid golf, if I go bogey-free again (today), then somebody is going to have to play extremely well to catch me. Just make some pars and make guys come and get you.
No player atop the leaderboard could use a good finish more than Cantlay. The top-ranked amateur in the world in 2012, he turned pro that year after graduating from UCLA. A nagging back injury forced him to miss most of the next three years.
He is playing on a major medical exemption and has 10 events this season to earn 389 FedEx Cup points or $624,746 to be eligible for the rest of the tour season. In his only other tournament this season, he tied for 48th at the Pebble Beach Pro-Am and won $17,897.
He is playing this week on a sponsor's exemption. Should he finish alone in second place or win, he would earn enough money to be eligible for the rest of the season. A top-10 finish would put him well on his way to earning that eligibility.
"I try not to have much expectation," Cantlay said. "I know my game is good, and I've been able to prep the way I want for the tournament. I'm just trying to do my own deal and see where it ends up."
If Hadwin wins, he would qualify for the Masters next month. That would create a problem because his honeymoon is scheduled for the week before in French Polynesia.
"(His fiancee) knows that we'll have to cancel if things go well (today)," Hadwin said.