SAN MARTIN -- Returning as a defending champion of a PGA Tour event has its perks. Just ask Bryce Molder after he's signed a few autographs over his image that appears on the poster for this year's Frys.com Open.
"Nah, that's not too bad," said a smiling Molder, whose third-round 66 on Saturday left him tied for 12th place at 9-under 204, six strokes behind leader John Mallinger.
Molder said he's enjoying his trip back to CordeValle Golf Club, the course where he won the 2011 title after a six-hole playoff with Briny Baird.
"Being a past champion, you automatically become an ambassador for the tournament, and it's a fun role to have," the 33-year-old Arizona native said.
And he thinks it also gave him at least a psychological boost heading into this weekend.
"It's always a little bit of an advantage to know that you have played well on a golf course," he said. "You know that you've seen things properly and done things properly before. It certainly lets you know your game plan works."
Molder's scores have improved each round -- 71-67-66 -- and he sees that as significant.
"I've been fighting my game for months now," he said. "Yesterday I started making some putts and, at times, good enough shots to where I can put together some rounds and I have."
Just ask Russell Knox, whose third-round 65 was three strokes better than his Friday performance and six strokes better than his opening 18 holes.
At 203, Knox was tied for seventh place, five strokes off the lead.
"Yeah, I mean, this is the most perfect weather day in the history of golf," Knox said. "Today was definitely a day where you could be aggressive. The greens are pretty soft. No, this is as good as you can hope for."
Knox wasn't the only one pleased to see the blue skies. Tournament president Duke Butler said crowd size still wasn't reaching the initial expectation of 60,000 fans showing up, but was moving in the right direction. While attendance was certainly up from the sparse turnout for the first two rounds, there was still plenty of room along each hole.
Butler said he expected a strong Sunday finish at the gate.
"The forecast is good, the leader board is good," Butler said, "so I think we're going to have a very good final day."
Ernie Els and Davis Love III each finished the third round at 208, 10 strokes behind the leader.
In 2010, Rocco Mediate held a three-stroke lead after Saturday's play en route to winning the event. Last year, Baird was the leader by two strokes and eventually fell to Molder in the playoff.