US PGA Championship - Surprise American duo lead at US PGA
After failing to win any of the last six majors, the United States hold the top five spots heading into Sunday's final round of the US PGA Championship with unheralded duo Brendan Steele and Jason Dufner sharing the lead at seven under par.
Steele, who had not played a hole on the US PGA Tour before this year, is ranked 121st in the world but he fired a confident four-under 66 at Atlanta Athletic Club while, all around him, many of the sport's elite struggled.
Steele has at least got a US PGA Tour win under his belt, he was victorious in the Texas Open in April, which is more than the 34-year-old Dufner, who has played most of his golf on the second tier Nationwide Tour, can claim. Dufner carded a 68.
Britain's Luke Donald and Lee Westwood, the top-ranked players in the world but neither yet to secure a major title, both looked well poised to mount challenges.
However, like so many this week, their prospects were hampered by misfortune on the tricky final four holes.
Instead another American rookie, Keegan Bradley, was a stroke behind the leaders after showing intense concentration through his round of 69.
Veteran Americans, Scott Verplank and world number five Steve Stricker, carded matching 69s and were respectively two and three shots behind the pacesetting pair.
Europe's closest challenger was Dane Anders Hansen, whose consistent week continued with an even-par 70 to follow his rounds of 68 and 69.
Hansen is four strokes off the pace along with yet another unfancied American DA. Points (71).
If there is to be an unprecedented seventh consecutive non-American win in a major then the best bet looks to be Masters champion Charl Schwartzel of South Africa who achieved a rarity of a bogey-free round on the challenging Highland course as he put himself in contention for Sunday with a 66.
Tied with Schwartzel, five strokes off the lead, were Swede Robert Karlsson (67) and Australians Adam Scott (70) and John Senden (72).
However, Saturday belonged to the Americans who seemed to be as surprised as everyone else to find themselves leading a major at the end of the third round.
"We'll see how it is," said Steele, looking ahead to Sunday,
"My expectations are just to go play a solid round tomorrow and if it's good enough, then great. If not, then well ... this is my first major so hopefully the first of many."
Dufner, who cuts a casual figure on the course with his lank hair and slight paunch, ended his round in impressive fashion - making a mockery of the difficult 15th and 16th where he made birdies and then showing exactly how to handle the difficult water-protected 18th green with a confident par.
That was in marked contrast to how the world's top-ranked player Donald handled the latter stages of the Highland course.
Donald had moved within a stroke of the lead, getting to five under after 14 holes, but he bogeyed the 16th and then found water on the tricky last hole which he double-bogeyed to end the day with a 68.
"It was a very disappointing finish but there was a lot of great golf out there too," said the Englishman, who nonetheless remains in the frame for Sunday in pursuit of his first major title.
Westwood was solid, recording birdies at the fifth and 10th but he had to settle for an even-par 70 after a double bogey on the 14th after driving into a car park.
Also lurking in contention was American David Toms, winner in 2001 when the US PGA Championship was last held here. The 44-year-old fired a best-of-the-day 65 to end the round five strokes off the pace.