Retief Goosen produced one of only three sub-par scores on a brutal day to move into the lead at the United States Open.
The South African, winner of the title in Tulsa three years ago, had a one-under 69 at Shinnecock Hills and goes into the final round on five under,
two ahead of Masters champion Phil Mickelson and Ernie Els.
Scoring ballooned not so much because of a strengthening wind, but because of the fast-running conditions, some wicked pin placings - and a 189-yard
seventh hole which Els described as "unplayable".
Of the 66 players only one, amateur Chez Reavie, managed a birdie there - and Mickelson and Shigeki Maruyama were both victims.
Mickelson ran up a double bogey five after his eight-foot par attempt tricked on and on at least 10 feet past the hole.
The entire green is set at an angle and of the last 22 players in the third round only three stayed on the putting surface with their tee shots.
Maruyama, playing with Mickelson and sharing top spot with him at the time, was one of them - but he then putted off the green and bogeyed it.
The two had their problems on the last as well. Goosen had missed a three-foot birdie chance, but Mickelson's miss from the same distance meant he
three-putted it for bogey and Maruyama was in sand and then three-putted as well for a double bogey.
Tiger Woods had an happier time there, holing a 106-yard sand-wedge for an eagle two. But he still managed only a 73 and is nine behind in 19th
Leading European is Sergio Garcia in ninth place on one over following a 71. He played the last seven holes in three under to get back into the hunt
for a first major title - and what would be a third US Tour victory in his last five starts.
Round of the day came from Goosen's fellow South African Tim Clark - a brilliant 66 that moved him from three over to one under and from 34th into
Els, who will go to world number one if he wins and Woods is outside the top six, was fiercely critical of the United States Golf Association for
their setting up of the seventh.
"The majority of the field is going to make four, which is ridiculous," he said. "I am a fan of Redans (the style of hole), but it has got to play in
a certain way. The green has to be a little bit more receptive.
"Where they put the flag you had no chance. They did not set it up the way the hole is designed."
Goosen managed a par and birdied a 10th hole on which Woods double-bogeyed after spinning a pitch off the raised green and then failing to make it
back up with a chip-and-run.
The twice European Tour leading money-winner, who beat Mark Brooks in a play-off three years ago after three-putting the last from 12 feet for a
double bogey in the fourth round, bogeyed the 13th and 14th, but came straight back with two more birdies.
Mickelson was sharing the lead with three to play, but failed to get up and down from sand on both the 16th and 17th, first for a par and then for a
bogey. But, having been plugged on the 17th, it was his miss on the last that hurt most.
Welshman Phillip Price, level par until he bogeyed the last three holes of his second round, fell back to eight over with a 75, double-bogeying the
Lee Westwood's 73 put him seven over, while Padraig Harrington, loser of a play-off to Garcia last Sunday, had a 76 and fell down to 10 over. Yet he
still out-scored his playing partner JJ Henry by 10.
Westwood described the seventh as "a unique hole", while of the pin placing at the short 17th he commented: "If it is an examination paper then they
are asking a question there is no answer to." He felt he hit a great shot and it kicked off the green.
Harrington did not have a single birdie and has had only three in 54 holes so far.
"It was one of those days - very, very, very peculiar," said the Dubliner. "It helps to see good things and neither of us could get the ball into the
hole all day. Actually I played lovely, but my birdie putts were all downhill.
"I got frustrated when I didn't birdie the fifth (he has parred the 537-yard hole all three days) and made a couple of silly errors."
Out in 38, he double-bogeyed the 412-yard 10th and dropped a further shot on the par three 17th after finding sand off the tee.