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(Reuters) - FedExCup champion Brandt Snedeker maintained his sizzling form this season by moving three shots in front of the chasing pack early in the third round of the Pebble Beach National Pro-Am on Saturday.
Co-leader overnight with fellow American Ted Potter Jr., Snedeker fired a four-under-par 68 at the hosting Pebble Beach Golf Links on a glorious sun-splashed winter's day to post a 12-under total of 202.
Despite losing momentum over the closing stretch where he failed to take advantage of a few good birdie opportunities, Snedeker stayed on track for his first victory of the year with a superbly controlled round.
"It was a fun day," Snedeker told CBS after mixing six birdies with two bogeys.
"I played great, pretty much from start to finish. A couple of hiccups here and there but I'm in great shape going into tomorrow."
Fellow American Richard H. Lee was at nine under after carding a 66 at Pebble Beach, with veteran South African Retief Goosen a further stroke back after a three-under 67 at Monterey Peninsula Country Club.
It was not a good day, though, for defending champion Phil Mickelson who triple-bogeyed the par-five last at Pebble Beach for a 73 to finish right on the projected cutline at one under.
Three venues are being used for this week's pro-am celebrity event and the leading 60 players and ties will make the cut after Saturday's third round.
Snedeker, who has recorded three top-three finishes in his first four events on the 2013 PGA Tour, made a fast start to the third round with a birdie at the par-five second to move a stroke in front at nine under.
Though he bogeyed the short fifth, he rebounded in style with four consecutive birdies to reach the turn in four-under 32, three ahead of the field.
Snedeker surprisingly bogeyed the par-four 10th after finding the middle of the fairway off the tee but immediately recovered by rolling in a 12-footer to birdie the 11th.
Known as one of the best putters in the game, Snedeker missed birdie attempts from eight feet at the 17th and from 11 feet at the last to remain three shots in front.
Four-times champion Mickelson, who won last week's Phoenix Open after a dominant display in the Arizona desert, was two under for the day with three holes to play before his round unravelled.
The American left-hander ran up a three-putt bogey at 16, but then recovered by sinking a nine-footer to birdie the 17th before making a mess of the last.
Mickelson hit two shots into the ocean while playing the 18th, slipping on rocks while looking for his errant drive, before completing his back nine in two-over 38.
The three-round cut was projected to fall at one-under with former world number one David Duval among those likely to miss out.
Reporting by Mark Lamport-Stokes in Los Angeles; Editing by Julian Linden