La Quinta - Erik Compton, a runner-up at last year's US Open, fired a five-under par 67 to grab a share of the lead after Saturday's third round of the PGA Tour's Humana Challenge.
In a tournament that uses three courses in the California desert, two-time heart transplant recipient Compton finished his round on the PGA West Nicklaus course level after 54 holes with fellow Americans Bill Haas, Justin Thomas and Michael Putnam on 17-under 199.
Matt Kuchar, who led most of the day, made bogeys at 17 and 18 to shoot a one-under 71 on the Palmer course and stumble back into a share of second on 200 with fellow Americans Ryan Palmer, Steve Wheatcroft and Scott Pinckney.
Compton, seeking his first PGA crown at age 35, had his first top-10 finish in 2013 and his career-best showing last year at Pinehurst when he shared second behind US Open champion Martin Kaymer of Germany.
"I'm just trying to get my feet wet and enjoy playing golf," Compton said. "It wasn't as good as it was the first two days but I got the job done. I was able to make some miraculous pars. I'll take it.
"I'm in the mix. I'll have to shoot somewhere between 5- and 9- under tomorrow. It's an exciting day because I will be in the mix."
Kuchar found the water at 18 after a bogey at 17 and missed a six-foot par putt to fall out of a share of the lead.
"Not at all what I had in mind for how I would finish," Kuchar said. "I'm playing pretty good. I had a ton of opportunities. I was feeling pretty good. Backside, scrambling a little bit. Bummer I bogeyed the last two but I've got another day.
"The beauty of golf is you play four rounds and I've got another chance at it tomorrow. I'll have to go low. Somebody out of this group is going to go low. I hope I can find the hole tomorrow."
There were 15 players within three shots of the lead, including defending champion Patrick Reed, who already won this year in Hawaii. Also in the pack of seven on 202 were Scotsman Martin Laird, South Korean Park Sung Joon, Germany's Alex Cejka, South African Rory Sabbatini and Italy's Francesco Molinari.
Haas fired a 69 on the Nicklaus layout while Thomas shot 68 at Palmer and Putnam fired a three-under 69 at La Quinta Country Club.
"Ball striking is not where it should be but it's close," Haas said. "I hit a few shots that were a little off. I'm just lucky to get away with a few of them."
Thomas, 21, is making the seventh start of his rookie season. He shared fourth at the Sanderson Farms Championship last November and shared sixth last week in Hawaii.
"I just have to stay calm," Thomas said. "It's another round of golf. I just have to keeping playing well."Leading scores after Saturday's third round of the PGA Tour's $5.7 million Humana Challenge (USA unless noted, par-72):
199 - Erik Compton 66-66-67, Bill Haas 67-63-69, Justin Thomas 68-63-68, Michael Putnam 63-67-69
200 - Ryan Palmer 71-61-68, Scott Pinckney 64-67-69, Steve Wheatcroft 65-67-68, Matt Kuchar 65-64-71
- Alex Cejka (GER) 68-64-70, Rory Sabbatini (RSA) 71-68-63, Francesco
Molinari (ITA) 64-71-67, Nick Watney 67-64-71, Martin Laird (SCO)
68-66-68, Patrick Reed 65-70-67, Park Sung Joon (KOR) 68-67-67
- Jason Kokrak 65-68-70, Boo Weekley 70-66-67, Billy Horschel 71-67-65,
Steve Alker (NZL) 68-66-69, John Peterson 64-70-69, Brendan Steele
67-68-68, Charley Hoffman 71-63-69, Lucas Glover 68-69-66
Brian Davis (ENG) 67-69-68, David Toms 68-71-65, Webb Simpson 70-66-68,
Harris English 67-68-69, George McNeill 68-68-68, Martin Flores
68-65-71, Graham DeLaet (CAN) 68-70-66, Pat Perez 66-68-70, Shawn
Stefani 75-66-63, Tony Finau 71-65-68