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If you are wondering who Brendan Steele, Jason Dufner and Keegan Bradley are, and what they are doing at the top of the leaderboard heading into the final round of the PGA Championship at Atlanta Athletic Club, you are not alone. The three unheralded Americans in pole position for a career changing maiden Major title aren't exactly household names. While 25-year old Bradley is making his PGA Championship debut, Steele at 28, is ranked 121 in the world and would be unknown to golf fans outside the States. 34-year old Dufner is the elder statesman in the pack, but has never won a tournament on the PGA Tour. Fans following their progress at the PGA Championship are waiting for the lead trio to implode, but Steele followed up his 69 and 68 start to the tournament with a 66 on Saturday to grab a share of the lead at 7-under. Dufner, who raced into a share of the lead on Friday with a 65, followed it up in round 3 with a 2-under 68 to keep himself where he started the day, right at the top. Bradley had shared that place with Dufner at the start of round 3, and picked up a stroke with a solid round of 69, and is just a stroke behind the lead trio. But can any of them truly win?
Forty seven year old Scott Verplank and 44-year old Steve Stricker will hope to pip the lead trio. Verplank is 2-shots behind the leaders and continued his consistent run with another 1-under round of 69 on Saturday. Stricker, the world no.5, and surely the odds on favourite for the title bounced back from his 74 on Friday with a 69 as well, he is a further stroke behind Verplank at 4-under.
The man closest to preventing an American champion is Dane Anders Hansen. However, his round of even par 70 on Saturday was not what the doctor ordered. Joining him at 3-under is American D.A. Points, also headed in the wrong direction.
The top 8 is rounded off by a couple of players who do have the experience of winning a major. David Toms won the PGA Championship exactly a decade ago, and his round of 65 on Saturday showed that he is more than capable of making a late title challenge. Also in contention is the reigning Masters champion Charl Schwartzel of South Africa, who after two consecutive 71s appeared to have got a hang of the course with a 4-under 66. A couple of Australians - John Senden and Adam Scott - are also on 2-under.
The third round refused to be kind to the big name players with world no.1 Luke Donald doing really well having climbed to 4-under till a bogey on the 16th. A dip in the lake saw him double bogey the 18th to eventually finish at 1-under where he is tied with compatriot Lee Westwood. Westwood had also picked up 2 strokes till a double bogey on the 14th left him in a difficult position to stake a claim for the title. Westwood was especially disappointed with his putting, having missed a series of short putts which could have well put him in contention. Another disappointed player at 1-under is American Jim Furyk. The veteran had produced an excellent 65 to climb to 4-under on Friday, but bogeys on the 1st, 11th and 14th and double bogeys on 15th and 18th ruined a round which also amazingly included 4 birdies.
American Phil Mickelson and Spaniard Sergio Garcia are both on even par after three rounds, while American Ryder Cup captain Davis Love III slipped to 5-over after firing a 76 on Saturday. 22-year old US Open Champion Rory McIlroy also slipped back to 7-over after producing a 74.
Third round leaderboard (par 70)
-7: B Steele (US), J Dufner (US)
-6: K Bradley (US)
-5: S Verplank (US)
-4: S Stricker (US)
-3: A Hansen (Den), DA Points (US)
-2: C Schwartzel (SA), J Senden (Aus), A Scott (Aus), D Toms (US)
-1: L Donald (Eng), L Westwood (Eng), J Furyk (US), De Jonge (Zim), N Watney (US)
Level: P Mickelson (US), S Garcia (Spa), F Molinari (Ita), H Mahan (US)
+2: I Poulter (Eng), B Watson (US)
+5: R Sabbatini (SA), D Love III (US)
+6: N Seung-yol (Kor), R Fisher (Eng)
+7: R McIlroy (NI), P Harrington (Ire)
+8: YE Yang (Kor), R Fowler (US)
- 07/04/2012 09:07 - Augusta Masters: Fred Couples turns back time; McIlroy lurks in the shadows
- 06/04/2012 10:10 - Augusta Masters: Westwood surges ahead; Woods and McIlroy make a slow start
- 15/08/2011 11:37 - Rookie Bradley beats Dufner in play-off to win PGA Championship