The leaderboard after 54 holes shows local favourite Kevin Kisner starting the final round one shot ahead of fellow American Chris Stroud and Japan’s Hideki Matsuyama but that doesn’t begin to tell the story of an eventful end to Saturday in North Carolina.
A brutally difficult course set up dictated agonisingly slow play and little in the way of scoring opportunities for the bulk of the round but as the light faded in Charlotte the fireworks began.
Jason Day first threw away his chance of victory then recaptured it with a brilliant run before completely capitulating at the final hole with a bizarre quadruple bogey eight.
Matsuyama lost his game completely for large parts of the third round but somehow managed to save par after par and in the end signed for a 2-over 73 that could easily have been 75.
Kisner was rock solid and played 15 near perfect holes to be 2-under and three ahead of the chasing pack before finding water at 16 and wracking up a double.
He dropped another at 18 to sign for a 1-over 72 but on a course with greens that were the source of several complaints, he still retained his one shot lead.
Chris Stroud managed an even par 71 with a 2-under front nine and 2-under back while Rickie Fowler mimicked Day by first playing his way into, then out of, the tournament over the closing holes.
With Kisner at 7-under and Matsuyama and Stroud at 6-under Justin Thomas and Louis Oosthuizen will both like their chances Sunday as they start 5-under and sharing fourth.
Day, too, should have been part of that group but engineered a spectacular collapse at the final hole which dropped him all the way to even par and seven behind the lead.
It was a bizarre day for the former world Number One who started with a pinpoint approach to the second to move within one before things inexplicably unravelled.
He battled to the turn with two dropped shots thereafter but the real excitement lay ahead when he made an ugly double bogey at the 12th and a bogey at the 13th to fall six off the pace and seemingly out of the equation.
But in a remarkable turnaround he posted three straight birdies, including a monster putt at the difficult 16th, to once again climb back into calculations at 5-under and looking ominous.
Then came the fireworks of the final two holes.
Missing the green right at the par-3 17th he took three to get down but it was at the 18th that things truly fell apart.
Day drove behind a tree right of the fairway then tried to play a miracle hook shot with a restricted follow through that landed in bushes near some hospitality tents.
Forced to take an unplayable lie he still couldn’t find the fairway with his next, his fifth swing taken from heavy rough some 70 metres short of the green.
He selected a putter for his sixth stroke despite still being short of the surface and left a testing 7-footer for triple bogey, the final insult coming when that attempt caught the lip but refused to fall.
Day wasn’t the only one to let the championship slip through his fingers on day three, however, Rickie Fowler also licking his wounds after a late collapse.
At 2-under for the day through 14 and 5-under for the tournament the former winner at Quail Hollow was positioned perfectly for a final round assault.
While a three putt bogey at the 16th wasn’t helpful it wasn’t fatal but finding the water off the tee at the par-3 17th was.
The double bogey dropped him to 2-under and after he gave back another shot at the last he finds himself six off the pace.
Fowler and Day weren’t the only players to fall victim to Quail Hollow on Saturday, the course set-up drawing plenty of criticism from the field.
Jon Rahm played brilliantly for the first 14 holes to be 5-under for his round before giving back all five shots in the last four holes.
Course resident Webb Simpson said the set-up more closely resembled a US Open while Jordan Spieth said the pin positions were unusually difficult.
“The pins are on knobs,” he lamented after his round. “Unless you are in a perfect location, your putt has to be absolutely perfect.
“You really only have half the hole to make a lot of putts because of where the pins are. That's the defense of the golf course for sure.”
With 11 players within five shots of the lead a softer course set-up Sunday could produce a thrilling final round shootout. It is to be hoped the PGA obliges.
JASON DAY ROUND THREE RECAP:
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