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Hot Walker takes commanding lead at Pebble Pro-Am

Feb 8, 2014; Pebble Beach, CA, USA; Jimmy Walker tees off on the 5th hole at Monterey Peninsula Country Club, shore course during the third
Feb 8, 2014; Pebble Beach, CA, USA; Jimmy Walker tees off on the 5th hole at Monterey Peninsula Country Club, shore course during the third

(Reuters) - Red-hot Jimmy Walker stands on the verge of his third victory of the PGA Tour season, six strokes clear of his nearest pursuers after his third round at the Pebble Beach National Pro-Am on Saturday.

Walker opened the commanding lead with two late birdies to post a four-under-par 67 on Saturday at Monterey Peninsula, one of three courses used for the $6.6 million pro-celebrity event on the California coast.

The 35-year-old American's round came on a day with high winds that reached nearly 40 mph and caused a delay of more than two hours as the gusts moved several balls on the greens.

Twelve players, including second-round co-leader Jordan Spieth, did not complete the round due to the delay and were returning at 7 a.m. local time (1500 GMT) to finish their third rounds.

Walker posted a 13-under-par 202 total heading into Sunday's final round, which will bring everyone who makes the cut together at Pebble Beach.

Fellow American Hunter Mahan (72) and New Zealander Tim Wilkinson (69) were tied for second on seven-under.

The three frontrunners all played at Monterey Peninsula.

"I have never had whatever big lead this is going into the last round," Walker told reporters.

"It played really tough. When (we) made the turn, coming back and playing about five or six (holes) in a row in the wind, it was really stout.

"We were all just kind of laughing at some of the shots that we were hitting and the numbers we were hitting."

Phil Mickelson stayed on the edge of contention with a 71 at Spyglass Hill that left him equal fifth, eight strokes behind Walker, though he lamented a bogey at his final hole.

"It was a tough day, tough conditions, but I played pretty well," said the five-time major champion.

Spieth endured a wretched day on the Pebble Beach greens, soaring to five-over-par through 15 holes to stand nine strokes off the pace.

Walker has been the dominant player on the PGA Tour since the new "wraparound" season started in October.

The unheralded American showed positive signs last season, registering five top-10s on tour, including a runner-up finish, but he has taken his game to another level over the past four months.

He won the opening event of the 2013-14 season, the Frys.com Open in October, and followed up with another victory at the Sony Open in Hawaii in January.

Though he missed the cut two weeks ago in his last start, Walker started Pebble Beach leading the tour's FedEx Cup standings, as well as the money list.

(Reporting By Andrew Both in Cary, North Carolina; Editing by Larry Fine)

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