Argentina's Eduardo Romero bogeyed the final two holes at Kiawah island’s Ocean Course, but remained on course to claim his second successive Major title in the 68th US Senior PGA Championship.
Romero, who is looking to become the first international player to win the US Senior PGA Championship since Gary Player in 1990, fired a one under par 71 for a seven under par total of 209 and a two stroke lead over Zimbabweans Nick Price and Denis Watson, who are both on five under par.
Japan's Joe Ozaki is the only other player in the field left under par after a round of 72 while England’s Mark James also signed for a level par score to be the best placed European player on 217, one over par.
Romero had the opportunity to lay one hand on the trophy as he forged four ahead of the field with two holes to play, but the back to back bogeys allowed Price and Watson to feel more confident about their chances of overhauling the man they call ‘Gato’.
"I made a stupid bogey, especially the one on 18," he said. "The 17th was okay because that is a difficult hole. But the 18th was stupid. I hit a perfect drive and had 145 yards to the flag but I pushed it a little bit and it just ran off the green.”
Romero’s only previous victory in the United States was in last season’s JELD-WEN Tradition -- the final Senior Major Championship of last season. He reckoned his birdie at the 194 yard 14th was his best of the week, a “fantastic” six iron to 18 inches for a two.
Price, a three-time Major Champion before turning 50 in January, signed for a second successive 70 in his bid to win a tournament for the first time since the 2002 Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial on the US PGA Tour.
He said: "This is the first time I've been in the hunt for a golf tournament since the Byron Nelson in 2005 so it's a good feeling. There were some good memories today and especially finishing on a positive note. I'm looking forward to playing tomorrow."
Price also said that despite starting the final round trailing by two shots, he believes the pressure will be squarely on the shoulders of Romero after that pair of closing bogeys.
"Well, he let the three of us back in the Championship," said Price. “If he had posted nine under par, we would have had our work cut out tomorrow. But he’s still in control.”
Price and Watson will join Romero in the final threesome Sunday and Romero realises there is little margin for error if he's to walk away with his second straight Major victory.
"Tomorrow is a different day because the guy behind me is Nick. He is a tough guy -- one of the toughest guys in the world - and I will have to be very careful” added the Argentinian.
Watson’s third round 69 was one of only four rounds in the 60s and he commented: “I feel really good about what I'm doing. I'm starting to make a couple of putts here and there. The putter doesn't shake quite as much when I'm getting nervous!"
American Tom Kite recorded the low round of the Championship with a five under par 67, but at two over par – one behind James - it may be too late for the former US Open Champion to get in a blow.
"I guess that's the only good news for playing poorly the first two days - you get that early tee time where you can get out and have a chance to get at the golf course," Kite noted. "But even so, it’s a heck of a golf course and you've got to play very well.”
Defending champion Jay Haas was also nine shots behind after a three over par 75 in the third round.