Dutchman Joost Luiten was leading The European Tour challenge with Tiger Woods among the players who had a taste of the lead on a day of high scores in the US PGA Championship at windy Kiawah Island.
With most of the field going backwards Luiten, who led at eight under par during the opening round before finishing with four consecutive bogeys, played his first six holes in one over.
At three under for the week he had actually climbed two places into a share of fourth.
Seeking a record-equalling fifth victory in the event and 15th Major - it is now over four years since he added to his haul - Woods went to the turn in a one under par 35.
He led on his own following birdies at the second and fourth and single-putted the first five greens, but he could not get up and down at the short eighth and slipped back to four under.
As that happened overnight pacesetter Carl Pettersson hit back from bogeys on the tenth and 12th with a seven foot birdie at the long 16th, his seventh hole of the day.
The Swede was five under as a result, one ahead of Woods and Fiji's Vijay Singh, at 49 trying to become the oldest Major winner in history.
Singh was the only one of 78 players in the morning to break 70, his 69 lifting him no fewer than 28 places through the field.
Just two more - Phil Mickelson and Northern Ireland's Michael Hoey - broke the par of 72, Mickelson improving to level par with a 71 and Hoey's 70 taking him from six over to four over.
Compatriots Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell wished they could have matched Hoey's effort.
McDowell, four under overnight, fell back alongside Mickelson with a 76, while McIlroy slipped from joint second into a tie for eight on two under following bogeys at the fifth, seventh and tenth.
Earlier, Welshman Jamie Donaldson shot 73 - 20 strokes better than one of his playing partners, American club professional Doug Wade - to be on two under.
"Just a brutal test of golf," he said.
"The whole thing is very difficult and frustrating at times.
"We have two more days to grind. I'll just try to take it one shot at a time."
Winner of the Irish Open last month on the links of Royal Portrush - his first European Tour victory in 255 starts - Donaldson was prospering at another seaside venue and in more tough weather.
There was no let-up in the wind and play was incredibly slow, but that did not bother Pettersson as he holed out from the sand at the first to get back to six under.
Woods cut the gap to one again, though, after a brilliant approach to five feet at the 412 yard 12th.
McIlroy had his fourth bogey on the 13th to be five back, but Poulter birdied the ninth and 11th and leapt into a tie for fourth at three under.