Another major, another upset looming. Shaun Micheel, a 34-year-old journeyman, and Chad Campbell head the strongest field of the season going into today's final round of the 85th US PGA Championship.
Micheel, the overnight leader, added to his earlier scores of 69 and 68 with another superb effort yesterday at Oak Hill until bogeys at the last three holes gave him a 69 for four under par.
Earlier, far from overawed playing in the final pairing, Micheel birdied the last three holes on the front nine and then the 12th to go four shots clear of the field. His third at the par-five 13th missed the green and he had to drop, then place, on a downslope after a spectator picked up his ball. He still made a 15-footer for par and then put a brilliant tee shot at the short 15th to two feet and holed the putt for another birdie.
The only player he could not shake off was the 29-year-old Texan Campbell, who scored a best-of-the-week 65, one shot outside the course record, with birdies at three of the last four holes. Campbell, with two second places earlier in the season, finished 15th at The Open, but Micheel is trying to become the first player since John Daly 12 years ago to win the US PGA at his first attempt.
Mike Weir, the Masters champion, trailed by three strokes as the only other player under par. The South African, Tim Clark, was level, while Ernie Els was among those at one over alongside Germany's Alex Cejka.
So who in the name of Open champion Ben Curtis is Micheel? Born in Orlando, he grew up in Memphis and after stumbling around on mini tours and overseas earlier in his career has spent the last four years on the PGA Tour, where his best result is a tie for third place at the BC Open last year.
He did win the 1998 Singapore Open on the Asian Tour and a year later won on the circuit beneath the main tour. This season he has made the cut in 16 events out of 22 but finished in the top 10 only three times. Last week at The International, under a modified Stableford system, he failed to make the final day.
"After last week I would have been extremely shocked if you had told me I would leading this tournament," Micheel said. "And I would have been even more shocked after hacking it out of the rough on the first three holes in the first round. I've played in two US Opens but I have never seen rough like this.
"Players rate their careers by how many majors they have won. Heck, I've only played in three. Sure, I'd like to add my name to the list of names on the Wanamaker Trophy but that's getting a bit ahead of ourselves. I haven't proven myself as a tour winner yet. But it will an unbelievable experience to try and go out and do over the next two days what I've done for the last two."
Micheel does have a claim to fame and it was a courageous one. At a mini tour event in 1994, he was with another player, Doug Barren, on their way to the course when they saw an elderly couple drive down an embankment into a lake. They stripped off to their boxers and dived in and got the couple out. Micheel received a bravery award but has not heard from the people he helped since.
"It was ironic I went on to lose the tournament because I kept hitting it in the water on the last few holes," he said. Micheel is married to a lawyer who is expecting their first child in three months time. He is the son of a FedEx pilot and likes to fly himself although he has not yet got to the stage where he has his own plane.
"My number one goal, after winning golf tournaments and supporting my little baby that is on the way, is to get a plane to make my life a little easier. Security at airports has got better but that side of travelling frustrates me no end."
Tiger Woods had to apologise to Jim Furyk, the US Open champion who was playing alongside the world No 1 in the third round, after taking the honour for the first time on the 15th tee. Woods continued his struggle in the rough at Oak Hill as a 73 left him nine over par.
Woods will now have gone through the season without winning a major for the first time since 1998. The reason is simple. Though he has played good golf at times this season in winning four times, when he has needed to do so in the majors his swing has been far too inconsistent.
He hit only six greens in regulation yesterday and only four fairways from the tee. It did not matter whether in his hands he held the old faithful driver he recently restored to his bag, or a three-wood or an iron, proving it is not so much the club that is swung that matters, but the swinger. He did not get the ball in the short grass off the tee until the ninth, and then he three-putted on the green.
That was an aberration because for three days he has putted magnificently to keep himself in the tournament, just not often enough for birdie. "The only thing I'm doing good is putting my rock well," Woods said. "Unfortunately not many of them have been for birdie. I have been grinding my butt off. If I had bagged it in, I could have shot a million."
Though there was the pretence earlier in the season that Woods was still working with his old coach Butch Harmon, in reality his decision to go it alone, with the occasional input of his friend and rival competitor Mark O'Meara, has not been productive. "You are going to have years when you don't win a major," Woods said. "That's OK as long as you keep improving. Granted, the majors are the biggest events and you want to play well in them.
"When you are out of sync with your swing as I am it is hard to hit the ball as pinpoint as you need to on a course like this. This is the hardest, fairest course we've ever played."
Scores after the third round of the 85th US PGA Championship (US unless stated)
Shaun Micheel 69 68 69, Chad Campbell 69 72 65
Mike Weir (Can) 68 71 70
Tim Clark (SA) 72 70 68
Billy Andrade 67 72 72, Briny Baird 73 71 67, Alex Cejka (Ger) 74 69 68, Ernie Els (SA) 71 70 70
Fred Funk 69 73 70, Charles Howell III 70 72 70, Vijay Singh (Fiji) 69 73 70
Robert Gamez 70 73 70, Jay Haas 70 74 69, Phil Mickelson 66 75 72, Rod Pampling (Aus) 66 74 73, Tom Pernice Jr 70 71 72, Loren Roberts 70 73 70, Adam Scott (Australia) 72 69 72, Hal Sutton 75 71 67
Woody Austin 72 73 69, Toshi Izawa (Jpn) 71 72 71, Lee Janzen 68 74 72, Frank Lickliter II 71 72 71, Kevin Sutherland 69 74 71
Carlos Franco (Par) 73 73 69, Jim Furyk 72 74 69, Tim Herron 69 72 74, Scott McCarron 74 70 71
Luke Donald (GB) 73 72 71
Fred Couples 74 71 72, Niclas Fasth (Swe) 76 70 71, Todd Hamilton 70 74 73, Padraig Harrington (Ire) 72 76 69, JL Lewis 71 75 71, Peter Lonard (Aus) 74 74 69, Rocco Mediate 72 74 71, Jesper Parnevik (Swe) 73 72 72, Kenny Perry 75 72 70, Duffy Waldorf 70 75 72
Stuart Appleby (Aus) 74 73 71, Bob Burns 72 76 70, David Toms 75 72 71
Aaron Baddeley (Aus) 69 77 73, Angel Cabrera (Arg) 71 76 72, Jose Coceres (Arg) 73 68 78, Gary Evans (GB) 74 74 71, Jonathan Kaye 74 73 72, Len Mattiace 74 70 75, Geoff Ogilvy (Aus) 71 71 77, Ian Poulter (GB) 72 75 72, Tiger Woods 74 72 73
Robert Allenby (Aus) 70 77 73, Mark Calcavecchia 73 71 76, Bob Estes 71 76 73, Scott Hoch 75 72 73, Shigeki Maruyama (Jpn) 75 72 73
Trevor Immelman (SA) 74 70 77, Rory Sabbatini (SA) 71 75 75, Phil Tataurangi (NZ) 72 71 78
Ben Crane 73 73 76, Joe Durant 71 76 75, Bernhard Langer (Ger) 75 72 75
Paul Casey (GB) 79 69 75, Chris DiMarco 74 71 78, Brian Gay 74 74 75
Jose Maria Olazabal (Spa) 74 74 76, Eduardo Romero (Arg) 77 71 76
Michael Campbell (NZ) 74 71 80
Billy Mayfair 76 72 78
KJ Choi (S Kor) 74 74 80