|-7 P Mickelson (United States); -6 B Koepka (United States); -5 L Oosthuizen -4 K Streelman (United States); -3 C Bezuidenhout (SA), B Grace (SA)|
|Others selected: -2 B DeChambeau (United States); -1 P Casey (English); Level J Spieth (USA), R Fowler (USA), M Fitzpatrick (Eng), +1 I Poulter (Eng), S Lowry (Ire), P Harrington (Ire), M Laird (Sco)|
Phil Mickelson takes a one-shot lead in the final round of the US PGA Championship as he seeks to become the oldest big winner after a remarkable Saturday at Kiawah Island.
He had a sensational start, with five birdies in 10 holes to open a five-stroke lead over the Ocean Course.
But that advantage was wiped out when Brooks Koepka and Louis Oosthuizen equalized before losing shots late.
Koepka sits a six-under back, with Oosthuizen five under par.
Five-time major winner Mickelson finally signed for a 70 two under par to maintain pole position on seven under par.
He won the last of his five majors at the 2013 Muirfield Open and the victory this week would set him to the record-breaking oldest winner from Julius Boros, who won that title in 1968 at the age of 48 years.
“I enjoy it and I play well, I had good swings, I played good shots and I’m having a lot of fun,” said Mickelson.
“I let my mind go on a few swings and this class will penalize you for that.”
American Kevin Streelman is four under, with South Africans Christiaan Bezuidenhout and Branden Grace three under.
US Open champion Bryson DeChambeau doubled down on 17th but finished with a birdie to recover five to two under par, alongside fellow American Gary Woodland.
England’s Paul Casey had three birdies but they were canceled out by four bogeys in a one under 71 that left him one under par heading into the final round.
Fellow Matt Fitzpatrick sits further back as part of a large group reunited at the level by which includes Americans Jordan Spieth and Rickie Fowler.
Northern Ireland’s Rory McIlroy, who last won the event at the venue in 2012, posted a score of two out of 74 to jump to five above par.
Lefty provides the drama
Mickelson turns 51 next month, but he took the shape of his life as he took just 32 shots for the first nine holes.
The 2005 winner took a share of the lead on Saturday as he became the only player to hold the top spot after a major league round in the 1990s, 2000s, 2010s and 2020s.
He was soon alone at the top after Oosthuizen bogeyed the opener, before superb approach shots at the second and third holes set the stage for successive birdies as Mickelson extended his lead to three.
It became four strokes thanks to a birdie at six, and with Koepka, Branden Grace and Masters champion Hideki Matsuyama all making their move into the chase pack, Mickelson restored his advantage with another birdie at seven.
The southpaw, who left the world top 100 earlier this year for the first time since 1993, has not posted a top 10 in a major since the 2016 Open Championship.
But he continued to challenge his standings by making a huge par after finding a garbage bunker next to the ninth green as he reached the four-under turn on the par and extended his advantage to five shots with a birdie in the 10th.
But then Kiawah Island started to show its teeth.
The Ocean Course was built to host the Ryder Cup in 1991, the same year Mickelson won his first PGA Tour title as an amateur at the Northern Telecom Open.
The American’s winning tally now stands at 44 and if he reached 45 this weekend, Mickelson would become the first man to win a PGA Tour event three decades after his first.
This task became more difficult after making his first 21-hole bogey in the 12th at the same time as Oosthuizen birdied for a two-stroke swing.
Another drama unfolded on the 13th when both players fled their tee shots into the water. Mickelson dropped two shots after having to replay his third shot from the tee, while Oosthuizen escaped with a bogey to cut off the one-shot lead.
Koepka brings competition
Quadruple major champion Koepka, playing in the front squad, started the first day back and found himself five times after Mickelson’s early charge.
But the American had eliminated that deficit by the time he was heading for the 17th tee.
The former world number one suggested ahead of the tournament that he was six months away from fitness after undergoing knee surgery in March, but he is once again showing his immense presence in major championships.
Birdies either side of an unusual point-blank par miss to six and another shot down to nine saw the 2018 and 2019 US PGA Champion hit the turn at par and four-under overall.
Koepka collected shots at 10 and 12, then a birdie in the 16th by five brought him back to a tie after the leaders tripped in the pair behind.
The usually unperturbed Oosthuizen showed signs of frustration as he failed to convert a birdie putt on the 16th, which would have resulted in a three-part lead.
A bogey followed in the 17th par 3 for the South African as Mickelson held his cool to come out unscathed.
While Koepka missed the 18th to sign a 70 two-under par, Mickelson was back on top and he cleverly back and forth at the last to maintain that lead going into Sunday’s final lap.
Spieth watches unpredictable Sunday
Jordan Spieth must win this event to become the sixth player to complete the Grand Slam in his career, but his attempts to join Gene Sarazen, Ben Hogan, Gary Player, Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods at this elite club failed with the opening rounds. from 73 and 75.
That left the American down par ahead of the weekend, but the world number 28 gave himself an outside chance to chase down the leaders with a superb four under 68 on Saturday.
Spieth took advantage of the early calm conditions to post five birdies in 16, before his lone bogey of the day followed him on par three 17 as he finished at par.
“I did a few putts, but man, I hit the ball really well for the first 16 holes,” he said. “I was proud of the way I hung in there and ended up at normal level to give myself a chance to get into the top 10.”
The 27-year-old also predicted that the South Carolina venue, which is not only the longest course in Major League history, but also one that is exposed to unpredictable winds from the Atlantic with 10 holes by the ocean, will pose a different challenge on Sunday.
“I think it will be a different course,” he said. “Each hole will play very differently. I think that’s really cool.”