Steve Stricker leads Tournament of Champions

Stricker fires late birdie blitz to lead by five at Tournament of Champions

Steve Stricker produced a strong finish to his third round to ensure he will take a five-shot lead into Monday's final round of the Tournament of Champions in Hawaii.

The Wisconsin-born 44-year-old, who was 15 under par and five strokes clear of Webb Simpson at tournament's midway stage following a stunning 10-under-par 63 on Saturday, struggled to continue his momentum in the early part of his third round on Sunday and was level par through 14 holes.

That meant his advantage had dwindled to just one shot, but four birdies on his final four holes propelled him back ahead of the pack as he carded a four-under-par 69 to move to 19 under overall.

Out in front: Steve Stricker leads by five shots after three rounds in Hawaii

Out in front: Steve Stricker leads by five shots after three rounds in Hawaii

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Defending champion Jonathan /01/09/article-2084088-0F626D4600000578-598_468x298.jpg” width=”468″ height=”298″ alt=”Big finish: Stricker sends his drive down the 18th on his way to a 69″ class=”blkBorder” />

Big finish: Stricker sends his drive down the 18th on his way to a 69

'After that chip shot, I felt like I got a little momentum, even though there was a couple of holes to play. I got aggressive off the tee at 17 and hit a good iron approaching there, and hit two good shots at 18. So it was definitely a good finish.

'That [maintaining five-shot lead] was key – key to finish that way. Looking forward to tomorrow. It sets me up for some momentum going into tomorrow.'

Laird too was pleased with his day's work, and was not surprised by the quality of Stricker's finish.

Work to do: Martin Laird is five shots back

Work to do: Martin Laird is five shots back

The 28-year-old Glasgow-born player, who lives in Scottsdale, Arizona, said: 'I'm happy with my round. I got close to the lead before Strick went and birdied the last four holes, but after playing with him yesterday, that's no surprise.

'I played well today and, the same as the first two days, hit the ball great. I really played the same all three days. Yesterday just made one bad swing and cost me a double-bogey on 17. Apart from that, I finally putted better today.

'I didn't putt very good yesterday, to be honest. I missed three or four pretty straightforward five- or six-footers yesterday and worked on that after I finished and found something in my putting stroke and I putted a lot better today.'

Laird accepted it would be difficult to claw back five shots on Stricker.

He added: 'Everyone is pretty tough with a five-shot lead, but someone like Stricker, who has won a bunch and is obviously very experienced and just the way he plays, very steady, solid golf… it's going to be tough to catch him.'