CHARLOTTE, North Carolina (Reuters) – Kevin Kisner survived a poor finish to limp in with a one-stroke lead over Hideki Matsuyama and Chris Stroud after the third round of the PGA Championship on Saturday.
On a day when Australian Jason Day plunged out of contention with a quadruple-bogey at the last, Kisner eked out a one-over 72 on a Quail Hollow course that bared its teeth, despite Friday rain and little wind.
Kisner, not a long hitter but unerringly accurate for the most part until he double-bogeyed the 16th and bogeyed the last, posted a seven-under 206 total, one stroke ahead fellow American Stroud (71) and Japan’s Matsuyama (73).
American Justin Thomas and South African Louis Oosthuizen were two behind, the top five bunched within two shots heading into the final round of the year’s last major.
On undulating greens, some of the hole locations were extremely difficult, with nobody on the leaderboard shooting better than the 68 by Canadian Graham DeLaet, who went six-under in a remarkable four-hole stretch to end the day five strokes behind.
“I didn’t make the putts I’ve been making the first two days and just terrible finish there,” lamented world number 25 Kisner, who pulled his approach into water at the par-four 16th.
“It feels easy until you smack one in the water and then it seems hard again.”
Stroud was also still standing, six days after recording his first PGA Tour victory in Reno, Nevada.
“It played very difficult today,” the 35-year-old American said.
“Didn’t do anything great today but I didn’t do anything bad. I made some great pars and at the end of the day I’ve got a chance. I’m as calm as I’ve ever been.”
Matsuyama, tied for the halfway lead, had high hopes of moving into position to become the first Japanese man to win a major.
Instead, he bogeyed the first and never got anything going, making just one birdie all day. But by parring the brutally-difficult final three holes, known as the ‘Green Mile’ with water lurking, he stayed very much in contention.
Texan Jordan Spieth surrendered any chance of completing the career grand slam for at least 12 months, a double-bogey at the last leaving him 10 shots off the pace.
Pre-championship favourite Rory McIlroy was also out of contention at four-over.
“It hasn’t been the week I wanted to. If I can finish (under-par) tomorrow, that could be a top-10,” said the Northern Irishman.
“That’s a hollow victory in some sense but at least I would sign off on a positive note.”
(Reporting by Andrew Both; Editing by Larry Fine)