Rob Schumacher-USA TODAY Sports
Kevin Kisner survived a double bogey on No. 16 and a bogey on No. 18 to hold a one-shot lead heading into the final round of the 2017 PGA Championship on Sunday.
Starting the day at eight under par, Kisner finally showed some cracks in his armor with a one-over 72. The good news for him is none of his main competition coming into the third round made a major move to knock him off his perch.
Chris Stroud and Hideki Matsuyama are tied for second at six under par. Justin Thomas and Louis Oosthuizen are right behind them at five under.
Here’s how the leaderboard stands with 18 holes left to play at Quail Hollow Club:
After a fairly static start to the round for a trio of players who entered the day in the top three on the leaderboard, things took a turn on No. 12. Jason Day took the hardest stumble with a double bogey, but Matsuyama and Kisner struggled before both settled for a bogey:
PGA of America @PGA
Matsuyama: Bogey Kisner: Bogey Day: Double Bogey The final grouping ran into some trouble at 12 #PGAChamp https://t.co/l02JWQkxg6
Day was unable to stop his fall on the next hole, taking a bogey on No. 13 that brought his score for the day to four over par. He played the next four holes at two under, but he carded a quadruple bogey on 18 to end the third round seven shots off the lead, which Justin Ray of the Golf Channel noted puts him on the outside looking in among contenders based on recent major history:
Justin Ray @JustinRayGC
Make your move today: 38 of the last 40 major champions were at/within 4 of the lead after 54 holes. #PGAChamp
Even though the door was open for Day to make a move coming off a 66 on Friday, his 77 was tied for the fourth-worst score among all players in the third round.
Matsuyama, whose 64 on Friday is tied with Francesco Molinari’s total on the same day for the best round of the tournament, gave two shots back with a 73 in the third round.
Rex Hoggard of the Golf Channel did make a casual observation about the kind of day the 2017 U.S. Open runner-up appeared to be having:
Rex Hoggard @RexHoggardGC
99 percent of those who play golf would be thrilled with the shots that Hideki Matsuyama is absolutely disgusted with.
The problem is Matsuyama’s disgust turned out to be justified. He was doing fine with an even-par 35 on the front nine, but back-to-back bogeys on Nos. 12 and 13 left him searching for a quick turnaround. He salvaged pars the rest of the way to remain one shot off the pace.
Even though Kisner didn’t come close to posting his third straight round of 67, Ray did note his current spot atop the leaderboard is his first time in the top 10 after 54 holes at a major:
Justin Ray @JustinRayGC
Kevin Kisner’s best career 54-hole position in a major is tied for 11th (last year’s PGA at Baltusrol). #PGAChamp
The shot of the day—and probably the tournament—belonged to Graham DeLaet. He’s not quite out of contention with a 54-hole score of two under par, and for one moment on No. 14 he came within inches of making history:
PGA TOUR @PGATOUR
THIS … for just the second par-4 ace in PGA TOUR history … 😱😱😱😱 #PGAChamp https://t.co/fCMhxBddrE
DeLaet followed up his eagle on No. 14 with an eagle on No. 15, making up four shots to par in just two holes. A double bogey on No. 11 will have the Canadian kicking himself as he looks back on moments that likely cost him a shot at winning the PGA Championship, barring another low score on Sunday and some help from the competition ahead of him.
Things finally started to turn around, however slightly, for Jordan Spieth. His quest to complete the career Grand Slam will fall short, but he did post his first round at par with a 71 on Saturday.
Spieth will start the final round at three over par, and he offered some pointed comments on playing at the PGA Championship after his showing Saturday, via Will Gray of the Golf Channel:
“The PGA Championship I think is going to be the toughest for me. If we look historically back on my career, I think I will play this tournament worse than the other three majors just in the way that it’s set up. I feel like my game truly suits the other three majors maybe more than the PGA Championship. But I believe we can play anywhere and we can win anywhere. It’s just a matter of having everything in sync at the right time.”
In four previous appearances at the PGA Championship, Spieth finished second in 2015, tied for 13th last year and missed the cut in 2013 and ’14.
Spieth does have an advantage over Rory McIlroy in the battle for individual bragging rights with 18 holes remaining. McIlroy has yet to break par at this year’s PGA Championship after carding a 73 in the third round, bringing his total score to four over par.
As the PGA Tour’s two biggest stars have been stymied by the course this weekend, the top of the leaderboard at the PGA Championship is bracing itself for a busy day on Sunday.
Kisner has been in uncharted territory throughout this event, but that hasn’t prevented him from staying in the top spot. He will be tested after a lackluster finish Saturday and a large group behind him that includes Stroud, who has been steady through all three rounds, and Matsuyama, just two days removed from shooting seven under par.
DeLaet made up six shots in a span of four holes, so even players who are outside the top five have an outside shot at applying pressure to Kisner in the quest for the year’s final major.