SILVIS, Ill. (AP) - Steve Stricker stood in the bunker left of the first fairway, eyed his ball in the rough on the edge of the trap, then looked at the flag 122 yards away.
If it felt like he'd been in that position before, well, that's because he had.
"I had that same stance in my pro-am," he said. "Same bunker, same exact shot. I was right in the same spot."
All he wanted to do was get the ball on the green, which he did. And then came the shot of the day, a 75-foot putt for birdie that led to an 8-under-par 63 on Saturday and a two-stroke lead after three rounds of the John Deere Classic.
"I was just trying to get a two-putt and par and move on," Stricker said. "To make a putt like that, you don't expect to, nor are the odds in your favor to make a putt like that. But it went in with perfect speed and it got me going."
Stricker fashioned his best round of the year while closing in on his third straight victory in the tournament. He was at 20-under 193 following a par save on 18, where he twice hit into bunkers before drilling a 15-foot putt.
That put Stricker in a good spot because he's won the last four times he held the outright lead going into the final round. Stricker said he often hears statistics like that, but insisted he doesn't remember them.
"I don't put a lot of stock in numbers past, present, whatever," he said. "I just try to go out there and do the things that I'm capable of doing. You've just got to stick to your own game and that's what I've been able to do the last four or five years."
Brendon de Jonge was second at 195 after matching Stricker's 63. Second-round leader Chez Reavie, who began the day two up on Stricker, shot 68 and was 17 under, one ahead of Kyle Stanley (65).
Castle High School graduate Dean Wilson fired a 67 and was eight shots back at 201.
With one more solid round, Stricker would join an elite group. Only 20 times previously on the tour has someone won a tournament three years in a row, a list that includes Tiger Woods, Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, Tom Watson and Johnny Miller,
Woods has done it six times and was the most recent to accomplish the feat, at the Bridgestone Invitational in 2005, 2006 and 2007.
"I haven't really given it much thought, but it would mean a lot," Stricker said. "It's hard enough to win an event three times, let alone three in a row."