By Keith Jackson
Last Updated: 13/08/17 1:04am
Kevin Kisner will take a one-shot lead into the final round of the 99th PGA Championship after a third-day of high scoring, slow play and several mistakes at Quail Hollow.
Kisner had a two-stroke advantage with three to play, but he was one of many players to come to grief over the infamous Green Mile as he double-bogeyed the 16th and could count himself fortunate to escape with only a bogey at the last as a one-over 71 was enough to claim the 54-hole lead on seven under par.
In-form Hideki Matsuyama remains favourite to lift his first major title as he shares second place with Chris Stroud, who bogeyed the final two holes, but a number of elite stars tumbled down the leaderboard late in the day as the tough layout again took its toll in hot and humid conditions.
Jason Day was firmly in contention after three straight birdies from the 14th atoned for some erratic earlier play, but the 2015 champion bogeyed 17 and then ran up a horrific quadruple-bogey eight at the last, while course-specialist Rickie Fowler dropped four shots over the final three holes to slip to one under.
Kisner produced a rock-solid performance on the outward nine and rarely looked like dropping a shot as he made eight pars with one birdie at the long seventh after a delicate pitch out of the rough to four feet when his second flirted with the creek but hung on the bank.
But a rare missed fairway at the 12th resulted in only his fourth bogey of the tournament, although he regained control with some excellent short-game prowess rewarding him with back-to-back birdies at the 14th and 15th.
However, he came sliding back to the field with a huge mistake at the 16th, pulling his drive into the left rough and then turning his second over into the water hazard before he lipped out from 30 feet and walked off with a six.
A bold tee shot at 17 just had enough distance to carry the lake, although he burned the edge of the hole from 20 feet for birdie, but he enjoyed a huge slice of luck at the last as he pulled his second from the middle of the fairway, his ball bouncing on a bridge crossing the creek and landing in the rough to the left of the hazard.
Kisner took no chances with his pitch and sent it 45 feet past the pin, from where he safely two-putted for par to limit the damage to a bogey for a 72, with the final group taking an unacceptable five hours and 40 minutes to get round.
Stroud was more adventurous on the front nine and made three birdies in four holes around a bogey at the sixth, but he also dropped a shot at the 12th before getting it back with a neat chip to five feet at the 14th.
He briefly shared the lead with Kisner with two to play, but Stroud failed to get up and down at 17 after his pushed tee shot trickled off the green and found the run-off area, and he compounded the error by three-putting the final green to sign for a 71.
Matsuyama could not replicate the form of the latter stages of his second round, when he made five birdies in six holes to storm into a share of the overnight lead, and he had to scramble hard to save pars after opening with a bogey before he got back on track with a birdie at seven.
But that proved to be his only shot gained of the day as the Japanese ace continued to misfire after the turn, dropping shots at 13 and 14 before managing to negotiate the tough closing stretch in level par to stay within one of the leader.
Justin Thomas mixed four birdies with a pair of bogeys in a composed 69, one of only 10 sub-70 scores for the round, and the American ended the day just two off the lead along with Louis Oosthuizen after the South African defied an injury to his right forearm to fire a battling 71.
Fowler will look to put early pressure on the leader on Sunday as he remained as one of only 15 players under par for the Championship, while Day’s horror-show at the last saw him plummet to level par alongside leading Englishman Paul Casey, who also spilled four shots over the closing three holes.
Tiger Woods’ record as the youngest player to complete a career Grand Slam of majors remains safe after Jordan Spieth handed in a 71, following three straight birdies on the back-nine with a scrappy double-bogey six at the last.
Spieth dropped back to three over par, with Rory McIlroy a further stroke adrift as he laboured to a 73, after which he admitted he was still being affected by the rib injury he suffered earlier this year while hinting that he was considering taking another break from the game to “get 100 per cent healthy”.