PGA CHAMPIONSHIP: Kisner survives wild finish to take PGA lead

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. - Kevin Kisner survived a calamitous finish at the PGA Championship thanks to a good bounce off a bridge that allowed him to escape with a bogey and take a one-shot lead into the final round at Quail Hollow.

[IMAGES: Third round of the PGA Championship]

[SUNDAY'S FINAL ROUND: Tee times]

Kisner already gave up a two-shot lead with a 6-iron into the water on the 16th hole for double bogey.

[LINK: Leaderboard after three rounds]

Then, he nearly did it again at the end of Quail Hollow's fabled "Green Mile." His 7-iron went left toward the creek until it landed on the concrete bridge, sailed high in the air and disappeared in the thick grass on the hill above the water. Kisner did well to chop that onto the green and two-putt from 45 feet for a 1-over 72.

Jason Day wasn't so fortunate, most of that his own doing. Day took a big risk and paid a big price, going from behind a tree to flower bushes, into the rough and short of the green. The final result was a quadruple-bogey 8, leaving him seven shots behind.


Kisner had the lead going into the final round, a great spot to pursue his first major championship.

He just doesn't like what he sees in his rearview mirror, where the players are a lot closer than they once appeared.

Hideki Matsuyama made only one birdie and wasted two good scoring chances on the back nine. Then again, he had a rather dull finish that allowed him to salvage a 73 and leaves him only one shot behind as he tries to bring Japan its first major championship.

Chris Stroud, the last player to qualify for the PGA Championship, was briefly tied for the lead until he three-putted his last two holes for a 71. He was one shot behind and will be playing in the final group with Kisner.

"I'm happy I'm in the position I'm in," said Kisner, who was at 7-under 206. "I had a chance to run away from guys and take people out of the tournament that were four or five, six back. And I didn't do it. Now I'm in a dogfight tomorrow, and I have to be prepared for that."


After the final hour of the third round Saturday, he should be prepared for anything.

Justin Thomas, the son of a PGA professional, had the right formula. He didn't drop a shot over the last 12 shots and shot a 69 to finish just two shots behind along with Louis Oosthuizen, who saved par on the 18th with a bold shot for a 71.

It was everyone else in the hunt that fell apart.

Rickie Fowler, quietly lurking with four birdies in an eight-hole stretch, failed to birdie the par-5 15th - the easiest hole at Quail Hollow - and followed with a three-putt bogey on the 16th, an 8-iron into the water for double bogey on the 17th, and a three-putt bogey from just over 20 feet on the 18th. That gave him a 73, and after getting within three shots, he trailed by six.

Paul Casey also was in position until his shot on 18 missed by a fraction and settled in the rough above the hole. His chip ran off the green, and he made double bogey. Casey played the final three holes in 4 over and shot 74. He was seven behind.

The shocker was Day, the former No. 1 player in the world and a PGA champion two years ago. He looked more like Jean Van de Velde, only he was standing amid bushes of flowers instead of knee deep in the burn at Carnoustie.

Day was stymied by a pine tree, and instead of playing safe out to the fairway as Oosthuizen had done in the group ahead of him, he tried to hook an iron around the trees and the gallery to get a clear look at the green. But it went right into the flowers, and after a penalty drop, Day couldn't even get that back to the fairway.

He came up short of the green on his way to a quadruple-bogey 8 and a 77. He left without speaking to reporters.

Of the 15 players who remained under par, Oosthuizen is the only one who has won a major, and that was seven years ago. The South African had his own problems. His right arm tightened up on the front nine and he required a therapist to work on it. Then he hit a root on a shot with an 8-iron and bent the club, meaning he couldn't use it when he needed it late in his round.

He still has a chance to add to that British Open title at St. Andrews in 2010.

"It's the type of golf course you don't have to go out and make birdies. You just need to keep everything together," Oosthuizen said.

Kisner did that as well as anyone for so much of the day. He was rarely out of position except on the par-5 seventh when he hung a 3-iron to the right and near the hazard. He caught a decent lie and chipped close for his first birdie. And after ending a streak of 25 holes without a bogey, he two-putted the 14th green from 100 feet and two-putted the 15th green from 20 feet, both for birdies, to stretch his lead to two shots as players behind him were fading.

Kisner joined them with mistakes of his own, setting up a final round on a course that is playing as tough as any in the majors this year.

"I'm happy with the position I'm in,” Kisner said. “I had a chance to run away from guys and take people out of the tournament that were four, five, six, back and I didn't do it. So now I'm in a dogfight tomorrow and I gotta be prepared for that."

Jordan Spieth's quest to become the youngest Grand Slam winner is all but over after his three-bogey third round.

 

The 24-year-old is sitting at three-over par.

Third round went off without weather hitch

Fears of wacky weather didn't keep the golfers off the course, or thousands of fans from piling into south Charlotte's premier Quail Hollow, for Saturday’s third round of the PGA Championship.

PGA officials had meteorologists on standby and were prepared to pull golfers and fans off the course like they did Friday evening if conditions were poor.

(Click for our LIVE Dual Pol Doppler radar)

Occasional showers passed through quickly, and fans said they didn't take anything away from their experience.

"It's all about the sport. It happens sometimes, but they are pros,” Cameron Coyle said. “They are used to it. I'm sure they've seen worse.”

While rain wasn't a factor, heat and humidity created uncomfortable conditions for fans and golfers at times.

Larry Smith, who traveled to Quail Hollow from Washington, D.C., doesn’t have any regrets about making the trip.

"Perfect place to be, perfect weather, perfect people, love it," Smith said.

[RELATED: Kisner, Olesen open with 67s on fast greens at PGA]

[ARTICLE: A glance at the first round of the PGA Championship]

[SECTION: 2017 PGA Championship page]

Eannon O'Brien, on holiday from Dublin, Ireland, agreed.

O’Brien said that when he heads back to his country, he will bring fond memories of his time in Charlotte.

"I don't mind the rain so much, because where I come from, in my country it really rains heavy," O’Brien said. "It has been amazing. The people are fantastic, the town is great, it's really, really nice and green."

(Scroll below for social media updates from the tournament)

PGA officials had golfers play in threesomes after Friday’s second round was suspended because of darkness and some players were forced to finish Saturday morning, delaying Saturday’s third round.

If play is postponed extensively, the option to play Monday is available.

Fresh faces in position to win the Wanamaker

With 54 holes in the books, 14 of the top 15 names on the leaderboard for the 99th PGA Championship are in search of winning their first major championship. The lone exception is Louis Oosthuizen, who won the 2010 Open at St. Andrews.

Kisner's dealing with a couple of hot hands

Kevin Kisner's two most proximate threats on Sunday, Chris Stroud and Hideki Matsuyama, are coming off wins last weekend. Stroud won the Barracuda Championship in Reno, Nevada, to secure the Championship’s final exemption, while Matsuyama took home the title at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational in Akron, Ohio. To date, the only two players to win the PGA Championship after winning the week prior were Rory McIlroy (2014, WGC-Bridgestone Invitational) and Tiger Woods (2007, WGC-Bridgestone Invitational). 

Eagle

On Saturday afternoon, Graham DeLaet posted eagles on consecutive holes: the par-4 14th and the par-5 15th holes. On No. 14, which played 301 yards today, DeLaet drove the green and made an 8-foot putt for eagle. One hole later, after reaching the green in two, DeLaet did it again on the 575-yard 15th, as a 13-foot putt capped the rare eagle-eagle sequence. DeLaet enters the final round tied for 7th place, five shots behind Kevin Kisner.

Moving day

The low round on Saturday belonged to Satoshi Kodaira and J.B. Holmes, who each carded 4-under 67s. The two jumped 52 spots and into a tie for 18th place.

54-hole positioning

Since the PGA Championship’s transition to stroke play in 1958, 34 of the 59 Champions led or held a share of the lead after three rounds. Fifty-six were positioned in the top five, while only one player captured victory after starting the final round outside the top ten. Payne Stewart was tied for 11th after 54 holes in the 1989 PGA Championship at Kemper Lakes Golf Club in Hawthorn Woods, Illinois.

Carolinas PGA champ to serve as "playing marker"

PGA Professional Savio Nazareth of Kernersville, North Carolina, will serve as the “Playing Marker” Sunday at 8:05 a.m. for Charles Howell III. Nazareth was selected by the Carolinas PGA Section officers. Nazareth, a PGA Assistant Professional at Starmount Forest Country Club in Greensboro, North Carolina, competed in the PGA Professional Championship last June in Sunriver, Oregon. He was the 2016 Carolinas PGA Professional Champion and 2016 Carolinas PGA Co-Player of the Year. He competed in the Wells Fargo Championship this year and will also play next week at the Wyndham Championship.

A glance at the second round of the PGA Championship

Hideki Matsuyama barely missed a birdie putt on the 18th hole that would have given him sole possession of the lead at the PGA Championship.

Instead, Matsuyama will have to settle for a share of the second-round lead at 8 under with Kevin Kisner after shooting 64 on Friday — the lowest round of the tournament so far.

Matsuyama had a bogey-free round that included seven birdies, five on the final seven holes. Two of those birdies came after he was forced off the course due to a one-hour, 43-minute rain delay.

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Matsuyama won the WGC Bridgestone Invitational last week after shooting a final-round 61.

The weather remained quiet until just before 5 p.m. Friday when play was suspended because of dangerous weather conditions in the area. People at the tournament were told to seek shelter. 

PGA Championship officials announced around 5:30 p.m. that practice facilities were open and that all players had to be in position and ready to resume play at 6:25 p.m. as the severe weather moved out.

The Associated Press contributed to this story