CHARLOTTE—Unheralded American Kevin Kisner clung to a one-stroke lead after Saturday’s roller coaster third round of the PGA Championship, where contenders rose only to be humbled by formidable Quail Hollow.
Kisner, a winner three months ago at Colonial, dropped three strokes in the last three holes but finished with a one-over par 72 to stand on seven-under 206 for 54 holes at the year’s final major tournament.
World number three Hideki Matsuyama, trying to become the first Japanese man to win a major, shot 73 to share second on 207 with American Chris Stroud, who won last week in Reno to take the last spot in the PGA field.
“I’m disappointed in the way I played,” Matsuyama said. “However, I’m happy to just to be one stroke back and still have a chance and looking forward to tomorrow.”
Matsuyama took a World Golf Championships victory last week at Akron and was second at the US Open in June, one of six top-10 finishes in 20 major appearances.
Only 15 players cracked par for three rounds at the 7,600-yard layout, setting the stage for a dramatic Sunday showdown for the Wanamaker Trophy and a top prize of $1.89 million (1.59 million euros).
Kisner birdied 14 and 15 for a two-stroke lead but found water on his approach at 16 and lipped-out a 30-foot putt to make double bogey.
At 18, Kisner’s approach bounced off a rock in a water hazard and landed in deep rough. He chipped across the green and two-putted for bogey to stay in front.
“Just a terrible finish. I’m kicking myself over that,” Kisner said. “A lot of burning putts that went off the edges. Hopefully they will fall tomorrow.”
Kisner, ranked 25th, needed 109 tries before winning his first US PGA Tour title in 2015 at Sea Island, Georgia.
Matsuyama opened with a bogey, answered with a birdie at the par-5 seventh, but stumbled with back-to-back bogeys at 12 and the par-3 13th.
“Probably the pressure had something to do with it, being in the last group of a major tournament,” Matsuyama said. “But I haven’t been spot on all week. And the worries that I had about my swing showed up today in the way I played.”
Stroud, saying “I’m as calm as I’ve ever been,” shocked himself to make the final group with a 71 despite a bogey-bogey finish.
“Really didn’t do anything great but I didn’t do anything bad,” he said. “I’m still right there. I still have a chance.”
Justin Thomas, the 14th-ranked American with three US PGA victories this season, fired a 69, the only sub-par round among the last dozen players, to share fourth with South Africa’s Louis Oosthuizen just two strokes adrift.
“To get two-under out of what I had today, it was a great shock,” he said. “I just tried to keep my head on straight. I didn’t hit it real well. I stayed patient and tried to give myself as many pars as possible.”
Oosthuizen, the 2010 British Open champion and a three-time major runner-up, suffered a right arm injury and a bent club after hitting off a tree root on the second hole. A trainer walked along with him rubbing the arm during the round.
“I didn’t feel like it was painful or anything. It was just it got tight really quickly,” he said.
- Misery for Day, Fowler -
US star Rickie Fowler, who has six top-five major finishes without a victory, charged into fourth but closed with bogeys at 16 and 18 sandwiched around a double bogey at the par-3 17th to shoot 73 and share 12th on 212.
“I actually played fairly well,” Fowler said. “Then 3-putt and hit the ball in the water and 3-putted the last. Other than that, I would have been just fine.”
Australia’s seventh-ranked Jason Day departed without comment after closing with a quadruple-bogey 8, finding trees and bushes in a disaster that more than offset a three-birdie run from 14-16.
Canada’s Graeme DeLaet fired a 68 to stand seventh on 211. He came inches from an ace at the par-3 13th, made back-to-back eagles at 14 and 15 and sank a 46-foot birdie putt at 16.
“To do that at the PGA Championship is pretty special,” DeLaet said. “It’s something I’ll probably always remember.”
- McIlroy, Spieth struggle -
Fourth-ranked Rory McIlroy, trying to snap a three-year drought since his most recent major win at the 2014 PGA, fired a 73 to stand on 217.
“It’s tough,” McIlroy said. “You are just scrambling for pars. It’s tough to get close to the pin positions. That’s why you see so many guys scrambling out there.”
World number two Jordan Spieth, who won last month’s British Open, needs a PGA to complete the career Grand Slam. But he closed with a double bogey to shoot 71 and was on 216, 10 shots adrift.
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