PGA Championship: Stage set for thrilling finish in Louisville

Northern Ireland's Rory McIlroy holds a one-shot lead heading into the final round after a four-under 67 on Saturday.
Northern Ireland's Rory McIlroy holds a one-shot lead heading into the final round after a four-under 67 on Saturday. MCT

LOUISVILLE — Raise your hand if you or any of your golf buddies had Bernd Wiesberger among your PGA pool picks.


Raise your hand if you had never heard of Wiesberger before you saw him chasing Rory McIlroy in the third round of the 96th PGA Championship.


It was an eventful Saturday at Valhalla. It looked like a United Nations golf outing, with guys from Austria, Australia, America, Finland, Ireland, South Africa, Sweden and Wales logjamming the leaderboard.

Wiesberger, a 28-year-old Austrian who loves to ski, was the most surprising contender.

McIlroy, a 25-year-old Irishman and top-ranked player in the world, was the least surprising.

At the end of the day, McIlroy held a one-shot lead thanks to three birdies over the final four holes.

"The biggest thing I was concerned about on the back nine was not being in the lead," McIlroy said. "I wanted to get back to the lead.

"Now I feel like I'm in the best position I can be going into tomorrow. I would rather be the guy that's being chased."

Fresh off his British Open triumph last month, McIlroy has put together rounds of 66-67-67 for a 13-under total as he takes aim at his fourth major championship.

Wiesberger is alone in second place after a third-round 65 got him to 12-under.

Rickie Fowler, the boyish 25-year-old Californian and walking Puma advertisement, is third at 11-under.

Phil Mickelson, the 44-year-old superstar who's trying to salvage what has been a disappointing season, birdied four of the last five holes to get to 10-under. He's seeking his sixth major title.

Jason Day, a 26-year-old Aussie, is also at 10-under.

At one point Saturday, McIlroy, Day, Wiesberger, Fowler and Ryan Palmer were tied for the lead at 10-under.

That McIlroy was able to clear himself from the field was impressive considering he didn't play well. His round included a hooked drive into a creek, a stubbed chip shot and a flubbed chip shot.

But he persevered.

"I wouldn't say that's as bad as I could play. I've played much worse," McIlroy said with a laugh. "The middle of the round was pretty scrappy. But saying that, there were only two bogeys. I scrambled well.

"Shooting a 67 that way is more pleasing than a 67 hitting every green and feeling like you've missed every putt."

Wiesberger's 65 — six birdies, no bogeys — tied for the low round of the tournament. Not bad for a guy who previously made the cut in only one major in four tries.

Wiesberger loved that he was paired with Mickelson, whom he considers one of his two favorite golfers. (Ernie Els is the other.)

"He was really nice with me out there," Wiesberger said of Mickelson. "We had a couple good chats and a couple of laughs. It was never really an uptight situation. It was really relaxed."

Fowler continued his great play in the majors. He tied for fifth at the Masters and tied for second at the U.S. Open and British Open.

He hasn't been frustrated by his close-but-no-cigar finishes. To the contrary, he said "it builds confidence. The past few majors have been building blocks. I feel more and more comfortable every time. Just got to get one and the rest will follow."

Mickelson hopes to find the same magic on Sunday that he found last Sunday when he shot a 62 at the Bridgestone Invitational.

"The great thing is I've put myself in a position now where if I shoot the number I believe I can, I'm in position to win the golf tournament."

Valhalla didn't disappoint in providing last-day drama when it hosted the PGA in 1996 and 2000.

With a bunch of big names among the contenders going into Sunday's final round, the stage is set again.

"This one's out there for the taking for sure," Fowler said. "With the way the golf course is playing, it's not out of the question that someone can shoot 8- or 9-under.

"You never know what can happen."

And into this chaos steps unflappable Mr. McIlroy.

"I'm in a comfortable place right now mentally," he said. "I can look at a leaderboard and it doesn't affect me so much. I can still keep to my game plan and stick to what I need to do."

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