The final moments Saturday at Oak Hill brought out more emotion as big putts kept falling in the PGA Championship,with one big difference. These putts were for par.
Jim Furyk,after striking a poor 3-wood off the 18th tee,curled a 15-foot putt from the fringe into the left corner of the cup to salvage a one-shot lead heading into the final round,emphatically shaking his fist.
Adam Scott,whose sweet swing turned sour on the last few holes,knocked in a 15-foot putt for par on the 17th hole,bowed his head and pumped his fist.
And then there was Jason Dufner,whose disappointment turned to surprise on the 18th hole when he took a step toward the cup to tap in a missed putt and watched gravity pull it into the hole for a par that put him in the final group.
Perhaps those scenes were a prelude for Sunday,the final round of the final major of the year. Its only going to get harder, Furyk said.
Grinding to the end in swirling wind that cast doubt on so many shots,Furyk closed with two big putts one for birdie to regain the lead,the other for par to keep it that gave him a 2-under 68 and a one-shot lead over Jason Dufner going into the final round.
There was nothing fancy about the way he worked his way to the top of the leaderboard at 9-under 201,but then,thats rarely the case with Furyk. He made three birdies and two tough pars on the back nine,and the one bogey was a bunker shot that hit the pin and rolled 7 feet away.
Theres a crowded leaderboard at the top,and instead of really viewing it as who is leading and who is not,Im really viewing it as I need to go out there tomorrow and put together a good,solid round of golf, he said.
Dufner shot a 71,which was eight shots worse than his record-tying 63 on a soft course Friday,but at least got him into the final group at the PGA Championship for the second time in three years.
At the Atlanta Athletic Club in 2011,he had a four-shot lead with four holes to go and lost to Keegan Bradley in a playoff. I was young,new to doing the majors, Dufner said. So hopefully,the experience Ive had since then will pull me through and give me a chance to win tomorrow.
Swedens Henrik Stenson,a runner-up at the British Open three weeks ago,dropped only one shot over the last 16 holes and ran in a pair of 12-foot birdie putts for a 69. He was two shots back in third place.
Swedens odds of winning a major have never been this high. Stenson will play in the penultimate group with countryman Jonas Blixt,who had a 66 and was three shots back.
The surprise was Masters champion Adam Scott,who was poised to seize control at any moment.
Scott blasted a driver on the 318-yard 14th hole that stopped 25 feet below the cup,setting him up for an eagle putt to tie for the lead. But the Australian two-putted for birdie,and two holes later fell back with a double bogey on the 16th. Scott managed a 72 and was four shots behind,along with Steve Stricker,who had a 70.
Still with an outside chance was Rory McIlroy,who came to life with three birdies over his last six holes for a 67. McIlroy,trying to join Tiger Woods as the only repeat winner of the PGA Championship in the stroke-play era,knocked in a 40-foot birdie putt on the 17th and then showed more emotion than he has all year when he chipped in for birdie on the 18th. It was good to feel the sort of rush again, said the Northern Irishman,who was at 207,six shots back.
Woods way behind
Woods,meanwhile,will have to wait eight more months to end his drought in the majors. He opened with two bogeys in the first three holes and shot a 73 to fall 13 shots behind. It was a shocking performance from the worlds No. 1 player,mainly because he was coming off an eight-shot win at Firestone. Woods has made only seven birdies in 54 holes four of them on par 3s. British Open champion Phil Mickelson was even worse. He sprayed the ball all over Oak Hill on his way to a 78,matching his highest score ever in the PGA Championship.
Leaderboard (After Rd 3)
1. Jim Furyk (-9); 2. Jason Dufner (-8); 3. Henrik Stenson (-7); 4. Jonas Blixt (-6); T5. Steve Stricker,Adam Scott (-5); T7. Rory McIlroy,Lee Westwood (-3)