Stephen Leaney of Australian conjured up a towering birdie at the last hole to force his way into contention for the 103rd US Open Championship at Olympia Fields Country Club, Matteson, Illinois.
The 34 year old recovered from the loss of three shots in two holes after the turn to sign for a superb two under par 68 which puts him into the final group with leader Jim Furyk of the United States.
Furyk, like Leaney still seeking his first Major Championship, set the US Open Championship scoring record for 54 holes by holing a 30 foot birdie putt on the last for a round of 67 and a three stroke lead on 200.
Leaney lies in second place on 203 after making a long birdie putt for a two on the 15th and hitting his approach to within a foot of the pin at the last. Another European Tour Member, Vijay Singh of Fiji, shared the lead with Furyk midway through the round but three bogeys to finish set him back on his heels with a round of 72 for 205.
Zimbabwe’s Nick Price is tied with Singh on five under par, after a roller coaster ride of a third round in which he birdied the first four holes to overtake the final third round pairing of Furyk and Singh before they had teed off. Price lost momentum, however, and eventually ended up birdieing the last for a round of 69.
Leaney, the Linde German Masters champion, admitted: “I can’t believe I shot two under. I made three huge par saves out there but had two bad swings at the 11th and 12th and paid for it. But I stuck to my game plan and now, looking at the scoreboard, I have a chance of winning.”
Eduardo Romero, The Barclays Scottish Open champion and 49 years of age, is tied for fifth after a 70, assisted by a monster 50 foot putt for a two at the 17th. The popular Argentinian outscored his playing partner and defending champion, Tiger Woods, by five strokes. It was Woods’s highest score as a professional in the event.
Ernie Els, twice a US Open Champion, managed to achieve a good level of consistency, picking up four birdies in a round of 69 to finish on 208, two under par and still with a massive amount of work to do to get among the leaders while Sweden’s Fredrik Jacobson stayed under par on 209 after a third round 73.
For Ireland’s Darren Clarke and Padraig Harrington and Justin Rose of England it was also a day of what might have been.
Clarke birdied four of the first seven holes but the good work was undone by a total of six bogeys, including two at the closing two holes, in an erratic round of 72. Rose birdied three of the first five holes, only to hand the strokes back for a level par 70 and both he and Clarke finished on a one over par total of 211.
Harrington, meanwhile, played the first six in three under, but he finished with a 72 for a three over par aggregate of 213 alongside Angel Cabrera of Argentina and Germany’s Bernhard Langer, who carded 73s.
"It would be nice to finish under par," said Rose, playing in his first US Open Championship. "I was much more solid off the tee today, but three putted the tenth and hit a bad seven iron on the 11th.”."
Harrington commented: "I needed to put in a very good one and didn't do that, so I'm just playing for my pride tomorrow. I was quite happy and felt good about my game, but then I missed some fairways and that killed me. Also I've putted very poorly and that's the crux. If you can't make birdies the bogeys really hurt.”
Sergia Garcia of Spain and Scotland’s Colin Montgomerie both shot 71s for 214, four over par. Montgomerie said: "I'm just not very good right now Missing two cuts in a row was not the best preparation to say the least and my objective on the plane over was to play all four rounds. I fulfilled that - just."
Londoner Brian Davis - five under after four holes on Thursday morning and leading the Championship - did not have a happy time either, dropping to seven over with a 74. At least his wife Julie was being released from hospital back in Britain a fortnight after collapsing. But with the cause still not known she has to go back for more tests next week.