American duo tied at the top

Little known Americans Brendan Steele and Jason Dufner will be in the final pairing of the 93rd USPGA Championship on Sunday.

Little known Americans Brendan Steele and Jason Dufner will be in the final pairing of the 93rd USPGA Championship on Sunday.

The duo held of all challengers in Saturday’s third round, including those of the world’s top two ranked golfers, Lee Westwood and Luke Donald, who were both left fuming by their performances at Atanta Athletic Club on what was another sweltering day.

Joint overnight leader Dufner stayed solid with a 68 that left him on a seven under 203 total, tied at the top with Steele, winner at the Texas Open on the PGA Tour earlier this year, who shot a superb 66. Amazingly, this is Steele’s first major.

The duo lie one shot clear of Keegan Bradley, yet another unheralded American – though he is the nephew of Pat Bradley, a six-time women’s major winner – who shared the lead after the second round.

Alone on fourth on five under, two shots off the lead, is US veteran Scott Verplank, while Steve Stricker lies in fifth a further shot back. Dane Anders Hansen is the first non-American on the leaderboard, tied for sixth place with D.A. Points on three under par.

Five players are on two under par for the tournament, five shots adrift – Past PGA champion David Toms, whose 65 was the low round of the day, Masters champ Charl Schwartzel (66), Robert Karlsson (67), John Senden (72) and Adam Scott (70).

While there were plenty of new names enjoying their day in the sun, the world’s best mostly were left feeling frustrated, and none more so than the English duo right at the top of the rankings.

Westwood’s round was going along steadily until he reached the 468-yard 14th, where he recorded a double bogey after missing from inside four feet on the green in what was an otherwise bogey-free round. The slip effectively halted his momentum, and he was forced to settle for an even-par 70 that left him on one under par, six shots off the lead, and tied with compatriot Donald and a host of others.

“I’m completely fed up. I’ve had enough now,” said Westwood.

“I made two birdies and they were from five-foot putts. I missed five inside 10 feet and you can’t do that on these greens – everybody else is making them.”

Asked what else he could do to help his putting problem, he replied: “Different religion maybe. I’ve tried everything else and I need inspiration from somewhere.

“I would like to think they will drop tomorrow, but they haven’t dropped all year, so why should they tomorrow?”

Donald, meanwhile, was also making his way up the leaderboard, and at one stage even had a birdie putt on the 15th to share the lead, but it didn’t drop, and he promptly followed it with a bogey at the 16th before finding the water with his third shot on 18 for an eventual double bogey.

His 68 can hardly be described as poor, but it could have been so much better.

“I am angry,” Donald told Press Association Sport.

“I had something good going and I threw it away.

“It’s just a shame to waste it like I did. I worked so hard to get to five under.

“Those last few holes are tough, but on the third shot to 18 I was probably too aggressive with my line and just pushed it.

“I gave myself a lot of chances, that’s the positive thing, and if I can go low tomorrow who knows? But obviously the finish leaves a bitter taste in my mouth.”

Elsewhere, Phil Mickelson still has an outside chance of forcing the issue on Sunday after a 69 left him on even par, tied with Spaniard Sergio Garcia, while US Open champion Rory McIlroy fell well and truly out of contention with a third-round 74.

Still hampered by the injury to his right arm sustained in the opening round on Thursday, the 22-year-old started poorly, three-putting the first for a double bogey, before adding another at the feared 15th after finding the water with his approach shot.

His most memorable moment of the day, however, came at the 17th, the same hole he triple-bogeyed on Friday. Like in the second round, McIlroy looked set to find the water again, but instead saw his ball hit the wall bordering the green, fly high up into the air, and land nine feet from the flag.

It left him wondering how things might have been different if he’d had similar good fortune on Friday.

“That would have been nice,” he said.

“I think there were two pivotal moments in this tournament for me – obviously the shot on the third on Thursday (the one he admits in hindsight he should not have attempted) and the six-iron on 17 yesterday.”

Though he acknowledged there was still quite a bit of pain in his arm, he admitted it was his putting that often let him down this week.

“I couldn’t get my speed at all on the greens. I’ve struggled with it all week.

“I’ve got one more day to go. I’ll hopefully give it my best and shoot a good score and take a couple of weeks off.”

McIlroy now plans to lay down his clubs until he gets to Switzerland for the European Masters at the beginning of September.

“I’ll just make sure that it’s okay for a couple of weeks’ time,” he said.

“Even though I won one tournament and it was a major, I still want to win a few more times to call this season a success.”

McIlroy also realised his best round was his 70 on day one – the day his wrist was at its most painful.

“Maybe I shouldn’t have gone and got it strapped up!” he added.