Unheralded local hero Kevin Kisner is targetting a wire-to-wire victory Sunday at the PGA Championship while Hideki Matusyama and Louis Oosthuizen top a host of challengers ready to pounce.
A final-round drama was on offer as the year's last major tournament resumed at formidable Quail Hollow, where contenders Jason Day and Rickie Fowler were swatted aside after late Saturday stumbles and Kisner hung on despite a bogey and double bogey in the last three holes.
"I'm happy I'm in the position I'm in," Kisner said. "I had a chance to run away from guys and take people out of the tournament that were four or five, six back, and I didn't do it. Now I'm in a dogfight and I have to be prepared for that."
Kisner, whose home is a two-hour drive south of the 7,600-yard layout, stood on seven-under par 206 with fellow American Chris Stroud and third-ranked Matsuyama one stroke adrift. Oosthuizen and American Justin Thomas shared fourth on 208.
Only 15 players were under par through 54 holes and just one of them, 2010 British Open champion Oosthuizen, has won a major. The South African also has three major runner-up finishes.
But the PGA is known for bringing first-time major success. Except for Rory McIlroy, the 2012 and 2014 champion, everyone since 2008 who has lifted the Wanamaker Trophy has been a first-time major winner.
That could mean a historic day for Matsuyama, trying to become the first Japanese man to win a major title and only the second Asian male major champion after 2009 PGA winner Yang Yong-Eun of South Korea.
"I'm happy to just to be one stroke back and still have a chance," Matsuyama said.
Matsuyama, who matched the best Japanese showing in a men's major with his US Open runner-up effort two months ago at Erin Hills, fired a final-round 61 last Sunday to win a World Golf Championships title.
Since 1947, only Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods have won the PGA after taking a title the week before.
But Matsuyama isn't the only contender who could join that group. Stroud took the last spot in the PGA field by winning a PGA event in Reno, Nevada, last Sunday.
"Oosty" is among many who see the title chase going down to the closing three-hole stretch known as "The Green Mile" that has played havoc with the field, Australian 2015 PGA winner and 2016 runner-up Day closing with quadruple bogey to fall seven back.
"You can go in three behind and you can still win it with those holes," Oosthuizen said. "You don't have to go out and make birdies. You just need to keep everything together."
American Grayson Murray was sixth on 210, four off the pace, with Canada's Graham DeLaet among those another stroke back. His wild third round included a double bogey, back-to-back eagles, a 46-foot birdie putt and a tap-in birdie after missing a hole-in-one by inches.
"It put me in a position where something really special can (happen). You never know," DeLaet said.
Historic win bids for British Open winner and world number two Jordan Spieth and fourth-ranked McIlroy have collapsed.
US star Spieth, who could have become the youngest to complete a career Grand Slam, has yet to crack par in any round and stands on 216 with Northern Ireland's McIlroy, who seeks a fifth career major before age 30 but hasn't won one since the 2014 PGA, on 217.