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Scott Stallings leads Humana Challenge

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LA QUINTA, Calif. (AP) - Scott Stallings opened a five-stroke lead in the Humana Challenge on Saturday, holing a 20-foot downhill putt on the par-5 eighth hole for his second eagle of the round.

Stallings shot a 9-under 63 to reach 22-under 194 after three days in perfect conditions in the Coachella Valley. He played PGA West's Jack Nicklaus course after opening the pro-am event with a 66 on the Arnold Palmer course - the site of the final round Sunday - and shooting a 65 at La Quinta.

``I stayed aggressive,'' Stallings said. ``Playing with John (Rollins) was a huge help. He's a good guy and he was an easy guy to club off of. ... We made a lot of birdies the last couple days, and so we kind of fed off each other, and that's definitely what you need to try to do in this format.''

Stallings also eagled the par-5 13th - hitting a 6-iron to 8 feet - and had five birdies in his third straight bogey-free round. The 27-year-old former Tennessee Tech player has two PGA Tour victories, winning the 2011 Greenbrier Classic and 2012 True South Classic.

``I guess you can say it's conservatively aggressive,'' Stallings said. ``Like No. 8, I hit a really good drive and had 8-iron. But just because I had 8-iron to a par 5, I fired it in the middle of the green, had a 20-footer and was happy to make it.''

Rollins had a 64 to move into a tied for second with Stewart Cink, Roberto Castro, Charles Howell III and Charley Hoffman.

``We both played real well yesterday at La Quinta,'' Rollins said. ``We had a good group and the mojo in the group has been positive. It was great to see a lot of good shots, putts going in.''

Cink had a 66 on the Nicklaus course.

``The weather's just so perfect out there,'' said Cink, winless since his playoff victory over Tom Watson in the 2009 British Open. ``There really is no way to improve the conditions that you're playing under out there. It's the very best it could possibly be.''

Castro shot a 69 at La Quinta, Howell had a 67 on the Palmer course, and Hoffman had a 67 at La Quinta. Castro had a share of the lead after each of the first two rounds.

``I got a little out of rhythm on the back, but still hit enough good shots to feel good about it,'' Castro said.

Brian Stuard missed a chance to become the sixth player in PGA Tour history to shoot 59, settling for a 62 on the Nicklaus course. After eagling the par-5 16th to reach 11 under for the day, he needed to birdie the final two holes for golf's magic number. He parred the par-3 17th and bogeyed the par-4 18th to end up in an eight-player group at 16 under.

``I kind of thought it after I hit my tee shot on 17,'' Stuard said about a 59. ``I had a chance there and just kind of left it on the top edge.''

Phil Mickelson made the cut by two strokes at 11 under in his season debut. After birdieing Nos. 16 and 17, he hit his second shot on the par-5 18th into the water, but salvaged a par for a bogey-free 66 on the Palmer course. The tournament is his first since the HSBC Champions in early November in China.

Mike Weir, the 2003 champion, closed with a triple-bogey 7 on the Palmer course to miss his 17th consecutive cut. After birdieing nine of his first 13 holes - including six in a row - to reach 11 under, he bogeyed the par-3 fifth and collapsed on the par-4 ninth.

Needing a par to make the cut, he hit his drive left into the water hazard that runs the length of the hole, took a penalty drop and hit another ball into the pond.

The Canadian has finished only one tournament - a tie for 70th in the AT&T National in July 2011 - in his last 29 events. He opened with a 67 at La Quinta and shot a 75 on Friday at the Nicklaus course.

Stallings is making his third straight start of the season. In Hawaii, he tied for 13th in the Tournament of Champions and missed the cut in Sony Open

He birdied the par-3 17th for a share of lead with Castro at 17 under, then birdied Nos. 4-6 to open a three-stroke lead. The eagle on No. 8 pushed the advantage to five, and he missed a chance to make it six when his 10-foot birdie try on the par-4 18th slid by the right edge.

Last year at the event, he tore cartilage in five ribs.

``The West Coast hasn't been very good to me at all,'' Stallings said. ``My rookie year, I missed my first five cuts, and last year I got hurt at this event. ... I played La Quinta for one round and I played with Carl Pettersson, and after nine holes he said, ``Either you're going to withdraw or I'm going to withdraw. I can't watch this anymore.'''

DIVOTS: Russell Henley, the Sony Open winner last week in his first start as a PGA Tour member, had a 71 at La Quinta to reach 12 under. ... If Stallings wins, it will be the first time since 1977 that players in their 20s have swept the first three events of a season. Jerry Pate, Bruce Lietzke and Watson won the first three tournaments in 1977 and Watson also won the fourth. Dustin Johnson won the opener this year. ... Stallings also is attempting to become the first winner to play 72 holes without a bogey since Lee Trevino in the 1974 Greater New Orleans Open. ... FedEx Cup champion Brandt Snedeker was 14 under after a 67 on the Palmer course. He's the highest-ranked player in the field at No. 8. ... Defending champion Mark Wilson missed the cut.

The Associated Press News Service

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The Associated Press
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