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FARMINGTON — Through three rounds of play, it has become a four-man battle for the title at the 51st San Juan Open at the San Juan Country Club.

Jim Knous and Nick Killpack sat atop the leaderboard Saturday at 17 under par after shooting a 65 and 64, respectively.

Lurking just one shot back was 2013 champion Jimmy Gunn, who fired the low round of the day with a 63. Two shots behind the leaders was Nathan Lashley, who followed Friday's 65 with a 66 Saturday.

The back nine was set up for the taking in round three, and the players at the top of the leaderboard took advantage.

Knous, who held the 36-hole lead at 11 under, started Saturday's round on the back nine and was five under on the round when he made the turn.

"All in all, I'm pretty pleased with how I played," Knous said. "I had back-to-back eagles on (holes) 14 and 15. I chipped in on 14 and made a good putt on 15, and that's always nice when you can get back-to-back eagles — it's a bonus. I started on the back, so I knew I had to get off to a hot start because the front side is no gimmie, except for those two par 5s, and even those can sneak up on you. I knew I had to get off to a good start, and I think I did a good job at that."

Knous birdied holes 1 and 3, the two par 5s on the front nine, to get to seven under through 12 holes. But he bogeyed No. 9 to finish the round with a six-under 65.

During the first two rounds, Killpack struck the ball well, but missed some opportunities with the putter. But on Saturday he had the ball rolling well.

"Same story as the last two days, I just made a few more putts," Killpack said. "I got a few more putts to drop. I could have made a few more putts, but you can always make more. I think today I hit the ball the best I have all week."

Gunn said a big part of his scoring came from his accuracy off the tee box, as he didn't miss a fairway during the round.

Gunn, Knous and Killpack all said the course was playing the easiest it had all week.

Getting through the front nine without any damage and taking advantage of the back nine seems to be the key to shooting a low score during this tournament.

"In three rounds, I'm only three under par on the front nine. I'm 16 under total, so 13 of that is on the back nine," Gunn said. "If you can hold on on the front and shoot one or two under, or even (par), it's not a disaster. It's a tough finish. Holes 4, 5, 6 and 7, even 8 and 9, they're all pretty tough holes, and you've got to hit some quality shots. Then, on the back, they're all birdie chances."

Lashley was paired with Knous during Saturday's round and matched Knous' eagles on 14 and 15 before finishing the round with a five-under 66.

The final round of the tournament begins today at 9 a.m., with the leaders teeing off at 10:45.

Karl Schneider is the sports editor for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4648 and kschneider@daily-times.com. Follow him @karltschneider on Twitter.

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