The return of decent weather brought the best out of the 2014 PGA Championship contenders, but none of them could overtake Rory McIlroy.
After holding at least a share of the lead throughout, McIlroy finished Saturday with a round of 67 to take a one-stroke lead at 13 under par entering Sunday's final round. Bernd Wiesberger's round of 65 put him one shot off McIlroy's pace at 12 under.
McIlroy and Wiesberger will duel in the final pairing, but they have company atop the leaderboard. Rickie Fowler sits just one shot back at 11 under par, while Phil Mickelson surged to move into a tie with Jason Day for fourth place.
Four golfers sit at nine under, just four shots off McIlroy's pace.
Take a look at the full leaderboard entering the final round:
The shots weren't always great from McIlroy. Here's one of his two bogeys, as he botched a chip attempt:
With dozens of golfers making runs at the lead, attention inevitably focused on McIlroy and Day at the head of the pack. The Australian stuck with the leader early on in his round, seemingly matching him birdie for birdie and proving to be his biggest threat.
Day didn't have his best day from the tee, though, and he often put himself in bad spots. Like on the second hole, when an errant tee shot sent him wading through a creek—shoes off and pants rolled up—to find his ball buried on the other side. Still, he managed to save par:
His good fortune didn't last forever. Day couldn't keep pace on the back nine, and numerous other golfers started to take shares of McIlroy's lead.
At one point, four players held the lead at the same time. It truly was a dead heat toward the lowest score, as Yahoo Sports' Pat Forde described:
Four-way tie for the lead right now: Fowler, Palmer, Day, McIlroy. And four more a shot behind. Cavalry charge.— Pat Forde (@YahooForde) August 9, 2014
But there was one constant throughout, and it was McIlroy holding a share of that lead. Day came and went, Ryan Palmer made strides and Wiesberger made noise late, but none could supplant the 2012 PGA champion.
Not many in the U.S. had heard of Wiesberger before this weekend, but he made a name for himself Saturday with his best round of the tournament. His bogey-free round of 65 helped him gain some ground between Day 2 and Day 3.
Wiesberger's success hasn't come on the major circuit—last year's British Open is the only major in which he's made it to the weekend. He does have two European Tour victories to his name, but is largely unknown in the States.
ESPN Stats and Information noted that he nearly chipped in for a 64, but instead "settled" for a 65 to tie Hunter Mahan for the low round:
Bernd Wiesberger just misses a chip-in eagle, taps in for birdie and cards a 65 -- tied with Hunter Mahan for low round of the day.— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) August 9, 2014
Not only was Wiesberger crushing the ball off the tee, but his short game was so strong that the end of his round featured three tap-ins, as The Associated Press' Doug Ferguson calculated:
Three feet, six inches. The total distance of Wiesberger's last three birdie putts.— Doug Ferguson (@dougferguson405) August 9, 2014
From a new name to a household one, Mickelson stayed locked in as he pushed the leaders. There were no eagles this round, but he birdied four of his last five holes—including a near-eagle on 18—to post a round of 67.
At 10 strokes under par, Lefty has a shot to add to his major tally Sunday.
Mickelson was fired up as usual, undoubtedly playing his best golf of the year at the right time. The competitor in him probably wanted to head back to the first tee right after his round, per Business Insider's Cork Gaines:
It's always met with frenzy whenever Mickelson makes headlines in a major, but Tour comrade Fowler has learned to fly under the radar. Ever so quietly, he's posted top-five finishes in each major this year.
Fowler and Mickelson will play together during Sunday's final round, but both should be given credit for nearly posting an eagle on 18, as Yahoo Sports' Shane Bacon joked:
Rickie Fowler and Phil Mickelson deserve 3.5s on the 18th.— Shane Bacon (@shanebacon) August 9, 2014
Here's a look at Fowler's attempt, which nearly rolled in:
Fowler and Mickelson look to be America's best bet at winning the weekend's tournament. With McIlroy, Day and a heap of other international stars in the running, it could be their time.
But whether it's Fowler, Mickelson, Palmer, Day or any of the other golfers in contention, they're all chasing one man.
McIlroy has been something else over the last month, winning the British Open in convincing fashion. When he returned last weekend, he won the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational in his tune-up to this weekend's affair.
McIlroy spoke about his lead going into Sunday, per The Associated Press, via ESPN.com:
"It's not the biggest lead I've ever had, but I'm still in control of this golf tournament. It's a great position to be in."
Through three rounds, McIlroy's game hasn't been lost one bit. Even throughout a few uncanny struggles on Saturday, he shook it off to land birdie after birdie to close out his round.
One thing is certain, though—the other contenders aren't making it easy for him. Given how well the course is playing, he'll need another spectacular round to win his second straight major.