Furyk moves into pole position
American will start final round of US PGA with one shot lead over Jason Dufner
Jim Furyk celebrates after saving par on the 18th green. Photograph: Sam Greenwood/Getty Images
What could have been a brilliant 2012 turned into something of a nightmare for Furyk, who held or shared the lead after 54 holes in four tournaments and failed to win any, as well as bogeying the final two holes to lose his vital singles match to Sergio Garcia at the Ryder Cup.
But the 43-year-old now has the chance to claim his second major title after a 68 at Oak Hill left him nine under par, one shot clear of halfway leader Jason Dufner.
Furyk had bogeyed two of his first three holes but hit back with five birdies, the last coming on the 17th before a crucial par save on the 18th after a woeful tee shot.
“It was big,” Furyk said. “The birdie at 17 was great to hit two good shots in there and make the putt and on 18 I made a bad swing, but this week I have not let too much bother me. I was able to wedge it on and make par and it was a nice way to finish the day.”
Dufner, who equalled the lowest score in major history with a 63 on Friday, had double-bogeyed the fifth after driving into a water hazard but regrouped to return a 71 and finish eight under, one ahead of Sweden’s Henrik Stenson (69).
Stenson, who finished runner-up to Phil Mickelson at the British Open and has been third, second and second in his last three events, will have compatriot Jonas Blixt for company in the final round, Blixt carding a 66 with a birdie on the 18th after his drive finished in a spectator’s trouser pocket.
Justin Rose saw his hopes of a second major in the space of two months disappear with a 77 containing a front nine of 42 — he played the same stretch in 29 on Friday — but defending champion Rory McIlroy and Lee Westwood climbed into a share of seventh, six behind Furyk.
McIlroy had been heading for a second consecutive missed cut in major championships when he stood five over for 11 holes of his second round on Friday, but the 24-year-old birdied four of the next six to finish level par.
He was still level for the tournament after 12 holes on Saturday but birdied the 13th, holed from 50 feet for another on the 17th and then chipped in on the 18th to card a 67 to lie three under.
“I probably made up at least three, three and a half shots on those last two holes,” said McIlroy, who has been watching videos of his eight-shot win last year for inspiration after carding just one top-three finish so far in 2013. His victory at Kiawah Island was one of five in 2012.
“It’s getting there. It was good to feel the sort of rush again. I felt it a bit in San Antonio this year (where he finished second to Martin Laird). Making a birdie on 17 is like an eagle and then to follow it up with another on the last is even better.
“I knew they were going to toughen the golf course up today. I sort of thought two 65s would still have a chance, 10 under par. But the way the conditions are with the swirling wind, it’s tricky out there. I felt like I still had a chance.
“Every time I’m in that position I just think back to Quail Hollow a few years ago and what I did on the weekend there (winning with rounds of 66 and 62). It gives me a bit confidence knowing that I’ve been in that position before and I’ve been able to win.
“I know this is a major championship and it’s a bit different, but I felt good enough about my game that I could go out there and post a good one today and at least give myself a chance going into tomorrow.”
Asked if he knew that the leaders had been struggling, McIlroy added: “Yes, very aware. I’m going to enjoy watching this afternoon.”
Westwood’s chances of winning a first major at the 63rd attempt appeared slim when he dropped three shots in the last two holes of his second round 73 to start the day eight off the lead.
But the 40-year-old carded three birdies and one bogey to reach the turn in 33 and after dropping a shot at the 11th, birdied the 12th and 14th.
A bogey on the 15th halted his momentum but the former world number one returned a 68 to join McIlroy in the clubhouse on three under par.
Westwood, who held a two-shot lead going into the final round of the Open at Muirfield last month before fading to third, said: “All in all it was very good. I figured somewhere around 67 might give me a chance going into tomorrow.
“My game has been great all week other than a poor finish yesterday, which you can’t really afford to do in major championships, give shots away like that.
“I’m definitely hitting the ball better than I was at Muirfield. Obviously I didn’t putt as well as I did at Muirfield this week, but another Sunday and another chance.”