Tiger Woods took route 66 towards a first major title since 2008 as a late stumble from Brooks Koepka threw the 100th US PGA Championship wide open.
Looking to join Gene Sarazen, Ben Hogan, Jack Nicklaus and Woods as the only players to win the US Open and US PGA in the same season, Koepka had raced to the turn in 30 and briefly enjoyed a five-shot lead at Bellerive Country Club.
And although he repaired some of the damage caused by dropped shots on the 14th and 15th with a birdie on the 17th, a third round of 66 left the 28-year-old American on 12 under par, just two shots ahead of former world number one Adam Scott.
Koepka’s lapse also brought many more players into the frame, with halfway leader Gary Woodland, Spain’s Jon Rahm and Rickie Fowler on nine under and Woods four off the pace alongside defending champion Justin Thomas, Ireland’s Shane Lowry, Jason Day, Stewart Cink and Charl Schwartzel.
Woods completed a 66 in the delayed second round on Saturday morning and added another in round three, but ran out of steam after a front nine of 31 and 10 closing pars included a three-putt from 20 feet on the 17th.
“I feel like I played well today,” said Woods, who only returned to competitive golf in November after undergoing spinal fusion surgery in April last year.
“I played 29 holes, I think I dropped three shots today and two of those were three-putts.
“I just wish I could have got myself a couple more shots closer to the lead but there aren’t a lot of guys up there in front of me.”
Woods had made the ideal start by holing from 15 feet for birdie on the first and five feet for another on the second, before almost chipping in on the fourth after finding trouble off the tee.
After changing his sweat-soaked shirt, Woods lost ground with a three-putt bogey on the fifth, but bounced back in style with birdies on the sixth, seventh and eighth.
The 42-year-old looked certain to end a string of pars when he fired a superb approach into the par-five 17th, only to charge the eagle attempt four feet past the hole and miss the return.
“I left pretty much every single putt short on the back nine,” Woods added.
“The greens were getting fuzzy and I didn’t hit the putts quite hard enough. And I made sure on 17 I did. I blew it by about four feet and then pulled the next one.”
— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) August 11, 2018
Jordan Spieth’s chances of claiming the win he needs to complete the career grand slam effectively disappeared as he suffered a nightmare triple-bogey seven on the 12th.
Spieth had charged into contention with a front nine of 31 but after being fortunate to find his ball following a wild drive on the 12th, he saw his attempted recovery ricochet off a tree and fly out of bounds.
The 25-year-old is without a win since victory in the Open at Royal Birkdale last year and 12 months on there would be no repeat at Carnoustie, where he went into the final round with a share of the lead but stumbled to a closing, birdie-free 76.
At four under par Spieth ended the day eight off the lead and Rory McIlroy’s hopes of ending his major drought also vanished after a 71 left him 10 behind.
McIlroy bogeyed the opening hole after flying his approach over the green and although he responded immediately with a birdie on the next, further dropped shots on the fourth and seventh saw him tumble down the leaderboard.
Four years and a day after winning the last of his four major titles in the 2014 US PGA at Valhalla, McIlroy gave himself a glimmer of hope with birdies on the 10th and 11th, only for the 29-year-old to double bogey the next after a wayward drive.
England’s Tommy Fleetwood insists he does not want to be a “baby” about his Open finish but accepts he should have done much better.
A birdie at the first to get him to six under, just three behind the overnight leaders, was greeted with a huge roar but he just could not get it going and his hopes went the way of his ball when he smashed it out of bounds at the sixth.
The Southport golfer finished three under – five behind champion Francesco Molinari – and was left frustrated after a runners-up finish at the US Open a month ago.
“I don’t want to be a bit of a baby about it, but I’m obviously disappointed,” he said.
“I didn’t really feel like I did that much wrong. Could have got it going because the crowd were with me.
“It was just the middle of the round that got away but the story of the score is I still had a chance and just couldn’t do it.
“I could have done things better this weekend, but it just wasn’t to be.
“I felt like I did so many things right but putts just didn’t really drop for the weekend like they did the first two days and overall that was it.
“It’s always sad and disappointing but it just wasn’t my time.”
Open runner-up Xander Schauffele insists he will look back on a chaotic final day at Carnoustie as a positive experience, despite missing the chance to win his first major.
Last season’s PGA Tour rookie of the year began the final day in the last group alongside defending champion Jordan Spieth on nine under, but a slump began at the fifth hole and he was unable to recover.
But for the 24-year-old American the damage was done from holes five through to seven, the latter seeing him taking two to get out of the rough and then hitting his approach to the green up against an out-of-bounds fence to finish with a double-bogey.
“Chaotic is probably the best way to put it,” he said.
“Jordan and I, we got off to a nice, sort of easy-going start, had a couple birdie looks and then whatever happened, happened.
“We just were in the strangest spots possible on the golf course, you know, where we didn’t think we would be.
“Every time I looked up at the leaderboard, there’s four, five, six guys in the lead, and five, six guys one back.
“So I tried to duck my head after I made double bogey. I figured looking at the board isn’t going to do me any good and I was just happy to claw my way back in a little bit.
“It’s just going to go in the memory bank as a positive. I had a chance to win a major championship.”
He eventually signed for a 74 which dropped him back to six under, which was still good enough for a share of second place, his best finish in the half-a-dozen majors he has played in, behind champion Francesco Molinari.
Schauffele was still in contention with two holes to play, needing to pick up a couple of shots to tie the lead, but a bogey at 17 left him requiring an unlikely eagle at the 508-yard last and that was a challenge too far.
“Obviously, when you don’t win, you’re disappointed. Hats off to Francesco. Looked up on 17 and saw he got to minus-eight, which is just incredible golf and an incredible finish,” he added.
“I was just happy to have a chance to win with four or five holes to play.
“I was in the final group, I had to face a little bit of adversity early in the round, and I still gave myself a chance.
“Anyone can look at it however they want to but I’m going to look at it as a positive moving forward, and try to learn how to handle the situations a little better next time.”