|-6 B Koepka (US); -5 V Hovland (Nor), C Conners (Can); -3 B DeChambeau (US); -2 J Rose (Eng), S Scheffler (US); -1 R McIlroy (NI)|
|Selected: Level M Block (US); +1 T Fleetwood (Eng), S Lowry (Ire); +4 T Hatton (Eng); +6 J Rahm (Spa)|
Two-time champion Brooks Koepka takes a one-shot lead into Sunday’s final round of the US PGA Championship with Justin Rose and Rory McIlroy among a stellar group of contenders at Oak Hill.
American Koepka, winner in 2018 and 2019, compiled a four-under 66 in heavy rain to move to six under overall.
Viktor Hovland and Corey Conners are one adrift at five under in New York state, two ahead of Bryson DeChambeau.
Rose and Scottie Scheffler are four back, with McIlroy five behind.
Northern Ireland’s McIlroy, who secured the last of his four major titles at this championship in 2014, often found himself battling his own swing as well as some miserable on-course conditions as he fought to stay in contention.
“It’s funny, I was a little more accepting of the ball going in the rough today, and I actually hit more fairways because of it,” he said.
“It just goes to show if you have a little more of a carefree attitude, it seems to work out a little bit better.”
The world number three started fast with two birdies in his first five holes but three bogeys in his next four threatened to derail his round.
However, three birdies on the back nine helped him post a creditable one-under par 69 for a second successive day.
England’s Rose, who said he has been “trending in the right direction” since winning the Pebble Beach Pro-Am in February, also carded a 69 in a round that featured several superb long putts.
The 42-year-old, whose solitary major triumph arrived a decade ago at the US Open, has holed more birdies (14) than any other player this week. And he is alongside Hovland, Conners and Michael Block as the only players to have posted three rounds of level par or better.
Block, the head professional at Arroyo Trabuco Golf Club in California, impressed again as he completed a third successive level-par round of 70 to remain in the top 10 and six strokes off the lead.
“I was along for the ride,” said Rose, who fist-bumped and slapped playing partner Block on the shoulder after the 46-year-old American had holed a birdie putt on the 14th.
“The crowd love [Block]. There was so much good energy. He’s a great player – so carefree and a breath of fresh air.”
Block, who will play with McIlroy in the final round, added: “I didn’t look at Rosey for the first three holes because I’m a big fan and I’ve watched him my whole life.
“If I did I’d have understood the fact I was playing with him in the third round of the PGA Championship – and I would have lost my mind.”
Rose will have Scheffler for company on Sunday after the world number two bogeyed four of his first seven holes in the worst of the rain as he posted a 73 and dropped from joint leader at halfway to four off the pace.
Brutal conditions add further layer of difficulty
Saturday’s third round got under way in dreadful conditions with torrential downpours adding another layer of difficulty to Oak Hill’s already punishing East Course.
World number one Jon Rahm was one of those to initially suffer in the deluge and he paid tribute to his caddie Adam Hayes.
“He must be carrying about 35 pounds of water on him,” said the Spaniard.
“You know, it’s the little things that maybe I don’t even realise, just making sure the grips are dry, the club heads are dry and positioning himself to help me out as much as possible.
“On a day like this, it’s a lot harder for them than it is for us.”
Rahm, who won the Masters in April, recorded six bogeys in his first 10 holes but birdies on the fourth, 13th, 14th and 17th holes, helped him post a 72 to sit six over.
Defending champion Justin Thomas – who came from seven back in the final round to win in 2022 – also found the going tough, carding six bogeys and one birdie in a 75 that saw him drop to 10 over.
Koepka turns jeers to cheers
A chorus of boos greeted Koepka and his playing partner Bryson DeChambeau on the first tee because the pair have chosen to join the Saudi Arabian-backed LIV Golf set-up.
However, by the time the 33-year-old Koepka rattled in a 47-foot birdie putt on the 17th those jeers had long since been replaced by cheers.
Koepka, who has also won two US Open titles, has spoken openly about “choking” at last month’s Masters, where he was four shots clear of eventual winner Rahm when play was suspended because of bad weather in the third round.
And while he will still have to come through a stern examination on Sunday, given the talent at the top of the leaderboard, his form, fitness and mental fortitude will make him a tough opponent to overcome.
Back-to back birdies on the fourth and fifth, came as the result of his powerful hitting and superb iron play, and while he bogeyed the seventh he stayed patient and was rewarded on the 12th and 13th holes as the rain briefly eased.
DeChambeau also fought back well after dropping two shots at the par-four sixth – a hole he called “the hardest in majors” – for the second day running.
The round-one leader posted birdies on the 14th and 15th holes to card a 70.
While Koepka and DeChambeau’s closing holes saw barely a lapse of concentration, Canada’s Conners and Norway’s Hovland, who are both chasing their first major triumph, will regret late errors.
Conners, who had been impeccable throughout and led on seven under after birdies on the eighth and 15th, hit his ball into a fairway bunker off the tee on the 16th.
To compound matters he drilled his second shot into the face of the bunker, embedding his ball. And while he got a free drop, he ended up with a double-bogey six – his only dropped shots of the round.
Hovland responded to a couple of early bogeys with three birdies midway through his round and looked set to join Koepka as joint leader but he bogeyed the 18th after a wild drive off the tee.
Mickelson brings up century
The 2005 and 2021 US PGA champion, Phil Mickelson, has created his own little bit of history this week. He equalled the record of five-time winner Jack Nicklaus and two-time champion Ray Floyd by making his 27th cut in this championship. It is also the 100th time, from 119 appearances, that he will play all four rounds of a major.
“It just shows how old I am,” laughed the 52-year-old.
He endured a difficult day, carding a birdie-free 75 which left him on 10 over in his 30th appearance at the championship.
However, he insisted: “I thought it was a fun, fair test. I really enjoyed the challenge. There are birdie holes out there. It’s not impossible. It’s just playing difficult.”