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Furyk Assumes 54-Hole Lead in PGA Championship
Jim Furyk carded a stellar 2-under 68 to take the third-round lead in the 95th PGA Championship at Oak Hill Country Club in Rochester, N.Y.
The 43-year-old Pennsylvanian got off to a rough start Saturday, carding bogeys on the second and third holes. But from that point forward - other than a dropped shot at the par-3 15th - the 2003 U.S. Open champion played solidly with five birdies, his last coming on the tough par-4 17th.
Furyk salvaged his 68 with a great par save on the difficult 18th. After missing the fairway and finding the deep rough on the 482-yard closer, he pitched out to 90 yards from the cup. From there he placed his third to 12 feet and made the par putt to elicit loud cheers from the gallery.
He stands at 9-under 201, one stroke ahead of 36-hole leader, Jason Dufner, who carded a 71, and two in front of Henrik Stenson, who shot 69.
Of his remarkable par on the final hole, Furyk said at greenside, "It's big." The 16-time PGA Tour winner also noted he's enjoying this week. "I haven't let too much bother me."
As for Sunday's final round, in which he'll be paired with Dufner, Furyk told reporters, "Tomorrow is an opportunity, and that's exactly how I'm going to approach it, as an opportunity. I'm going to have fun with it."
On Saturday, Oak Hill - unlike the opening two rounds when it was softened by rain - played hard and fast. Dufner, who set a new competitive course record Friday with a 7-under 63, felt the tree-lined and long layout's wrath early on, carding a double-bogey on the par-4 fifth hole. But the 36-year-old Ohioan got back on track with a birdie on the par-4 seventh, followed by a bogey on the eighth, before a birdie on the 10th and parring in from there.
Of his place with Furyk in the last group Sunday, Dufner - who began the third round with a two-stroke lead over the field, said, "Jim's a great guy, a great competitor. He's been in this position a lot before, and I've been there a few times, so it should be fun."
Sweden's Jonas Blixt fired a flawless, four-birdie 66 and is in solo fourth at 204; the 29-year-old will be paired in the penultimate group with fellow Swede, Stenson.
Sharing fifth at 205 are Steve Stricker (70) and reigning Masters champion and 18-hole co-leader Adam Scott, who slipped down the leaderboard after a 72.
Six behind Furyk are defending champion Rory McIlroy, who carded a 67 that included four birdies - two of which came on the last two holes - and a bogey, and England's Lee Westwood (68). On the 17th McIlroy sank a long putt for birdie and then chipped in on No. 18 to throaty roars from the gallery.
"I couldn't have pitched a more perfect pitch," he said of his last stroke of the day. The 24-year-old Northern Irishman was proud of his performance the past two days - on Friday he rebounded from a 3-over 39 on his front nine with a 3-under 32 on the back - and is also looking forward to Sunday.
"To play like that on this golf course and do what I needed to do (Friday) just to make the cut, and then to go out and play the way I did today, yeah, it's been a good stretch of holes," he told reporters. "I've got another 18 to play, and hopefully I can just keep playing the way I am."
Westwood is seeking for a breakthrough final round - meaning he needs to overcome a six-stroke deficit, a situation he experienced first-hand in last month's British Open at Muirfield. "You saw what happened when I had the lead in the last major and Phil (Mickelson) was four, five behind," said Westwood, who's finished in the top-10 in majors 16 times without a victory. "So anything is possible on the Sunday of a major."
Americans Kevin Streelman (66), Roberto Castro (71) and Dustin Johnson share ninth at 208. Johnson posted Saturday's low round, a 5-under 65. The South Carolinian, who lost a one-stroke lead on the 72nd hole in the 2010 PGA Championship at Whistling Straits after receiving a two-stroke penalty for grounding his club in a bunker - and missing out on a playoff that was won by Martin Kaymer, carded six birdies and a bogey Saturday.
"I felt like I played a lot better than my score was for the first couple of days," Johnson told PGATour.com. "Today I hit it really well. The only bogey I made was on No. 5 and that was from the fairway. But I had a mud ball . . . Rolled the putter really well and just gave myself a lot of opportunities to make birdie."
Sharing 11th at 209 are Scotland's Marc Warren (68), England's David Lynn (71), and Americans David Toms (69), Zach Johnson (70), Bill Haas (71), Charley Hoffman (73), Webb Simpson (73), Robert Garrigus (74) and Matt Kuchar (76).
Kuchar started the third round tied for second with Furyk and Scott but had a difficult outing Saturday. After a birdie on the first, it was all downhill from there for the six-time Tour winner as he doubled the third and tacked on five more bogeys from there.
U.S. Open champion Justin Rose also had a tough third round. The winner in June at Merion near Philadelphia went out with a 7-over 42 that included three bogeys and two doubles, then bogeyed the 10th before finally recording his one and only birdie on the par-4 12th en route to an even-par 35 on the home half. The Englishman is now in a tie for 28th at 1-over 211.
After opening with rounds of 71 and 70, No. 1-ranked Tiger Woods carded a 73 that involved four bogeys and only one birdie. The five-time 2013 winner shares 48th at 4-over 214 with, among others, Kaymer, who posted a 78.
"I didn't play very well today," Woods said. "I didn't hit it very good, didn't make anything, kept blocking every putt. So it was a tough day."
The 79-time PGA Tour winner, who will have to wait until next year's Masters to secure the elusive 15th major of his stellar career, echoed the words uttered by many golfers who've had off-days. "That's golf," Woods said. "We don't play well every week."
After opening with two straight 71s, Mickelson had posted a 78 that included only two birdies, five bogeys, a double and a triple on the par-4 seventh. "Lefty" is in last place at 10-over 220.
In addition to Rose, Kuchar, Kaymer and Mickelson, other highly ranked players having difficult rounds were No. 25 Hunter Mahan (78) and No. 17 Ian Poulter (77).
For all the scores, visit http://www.majorschampionships.com/pga-championship/leaderboard.html.