Case Cochran, Kelvin Day and Drew Evans put up a comfort zone force field around their group in Friday’s third round of the Merrill Lynch Open as they played a game of “Can you top this?”

“We’re definitely comfortable with each other, that’s for sure,” said Evans, who played with Cochran at Texas A&M. “It was pretty loose out there all day. That helped take the pressure off.”

“It was a fun group to play in,” Day said after a 7 under 65. “We were 21 under as a group, just fed off each other.”

So much fun in fact they’ll do it again in Saturday’s final round at Santa Maria Golf Course, vying for the $20,000 first prize, largest on the Adams Pro Tour.

Cochran matched the tournament’s low score with a 9 under 63 to get to 16 under 200 overall and take a two-stroke lead over Day and a four-stroke edge over Evans, who shot 67.

Dustin Morris is fourth at 11 under after a 68. Anthony Broussard and Bryan Hogan are tied for fifth at 10 under after a pair of 67s.

Cochran set a blistering early pace with birdies on four of the first five holes en route to a front-nine 30. Four more birdies followed on the back nine sandwiched around a lone bogey on the par-4 16th.

“When I saw him taking off making birdies on four of the first five holes, I thought, ‘I’ve got to kick it in gear now,’ Evans said. “It gave me a bit of motivation to hone in on my targets and make some putts.”

Golf is the Cochran family business. Case’s father Russ played on the PGA Tour for decades and is a five-time winner on the Champions Tour. Case’s oldest brother, Ryan, is their dad’s caddie.

Like most golfers on the Adams Pro Tour, Cochran hopes to emulate former Adams player and two-time Masters champion Bubba Watson and find success on the PGA Tour. He hopes this tour can be a similar proving ground for him.

“I talk to my dad about it a lot, and good golf is good golf,” Cochran said. “Finishing high in tournaments, no matter what tournament you’re playing in, will keep moving you up. It’s going to make you some money, you’re going to be able to play in the Q schools, gain some confidence. My whole goal is just to keep getting better.”

Third-round leader Christopher Brown struggled to a third-round 73, including a double-bogey on 16, to drop to 8 under 208, eight strokes off Cochran’s pace.

Brown is tied with defending champion and former Louisiana-Lafayette golfer Devin Carrey, who bounced back from a second-round 76 to post a 3 under 69 Friday. Carrey had the tournament’s other 63 in Wednesday’s first round.

Brian Rowell of Lafayette is the low South Louisiana player going into the final round. He’s at 4 under 212 after a third-round 72.

Baton Rougean Gregory Berthelot shot 74 to slip back to 3 under. Michael Arnaud, who won the Merrill Lynch Open in 2012, shot 74 to fall to 2 under, while Baton Rouge’s Brandt Garon is 1 under after a 71.

Play begins at 8 a.m. with threesomes off the No. 1 and No. 10 tees, with the leaders teeing off No. 1 at 9:20 p.m. There is no admission charge.

Follow Scott Rabalais on Twitter @RabalaisAdv.