Paul Casey, who only a week ago spoke of not wanting to be left behind as friend after friend won this year, was the one piling the pressure on South African Louis Oosthuizen in The Open at St Andrews tonight.
With four holes of his third round to play the 32-year-old English star was up to 11 under par and only two behind the man who had started the day with a five-stroke lead.
But Oosthuizen, the world number 54 who had made the halfway cut in only one of his previous eight majors and had then finished last in that, was proving a tough nut to crack.
Forced to wait 28 hours between the end of his second round and the start of his third – Friday’s suspension of play was part of the reason for that - Oosthuizen had not even driven off when his lead came down to four.
He then three-putted for bogey but, while 50-year-old playing partner and 1989 winner Mark Calcavecchia imploded, the former world junior champion began to handle the less windy conditions much better.
Casey, who this time last year was battling with a rib problem, twice cut the gap to one by reaching the turn in a brilliant 31 for the second day running, but Oosthuizen responded with matching birdies on the seventh and ninth.
Starting for home with four successive pars he was 13 under, with Casey two behind on the long 14th and then a further three-stroke gap to German Martin Kaymer, in with a 68.
Europe’s golfers were certainly making their presence felt with Swede Henrik Stenson next best on seven under following a 67 and Lee Westwood, going head-to-head with Casey, in the group one further back.
Westwood, who missed the play-off by one after a closing bogey at Turnberry last year, had managed only a disappointing 38 going out, but holed a monster putt at the 10th and also birdied the short 11th to get back in the hunt.
Kaymer, like Casey, suffered an injury last summer, in his case three broken toes in a go-karting accident.
But the 25-year-old was eighth in the US Open last month, was a winner in Abu Dhabi in January and is on course for a Ryder Cup debut in October. Tomorrow could seal it.
Stenson’s day actually stared at 4.15am. He and 29 others first had to finish his second round and after parring the 17th he birdied the last for a 74 and two under aggregate.
“I went back for some sleep in a couple of patches, then came back,” he said.
“Obviously it was a good day for me. I made a bomb of 60-70 feet on the eight and at the 13th hit my five-wood about 320 yards and then a sand wedge.
“I couldn’t see where it landed, but the crowd went crazy and I figured that was a good sign.
“It’s tough conditions out there and we will see where I stand, but I have some experience that might come in handy tomorrow.” He finished joint third at Birkdale two years ago.
Rory McIlroy – 63 on Thursday, 80 on Friday – was not totally out of it after a 69 lifted him back to four under.
That was one better than Tiger Woods, whose hopes of a third successive St Andrews victory were left hanging by a thread after a second 73 in a row.
Seven further back was Ian Poulter, runner-up in 2008, who managed only a 76 and then had trouble off the course as well.
Making his way back to the players’ lounge a spectator made a comment which he refused to repeat, but said was “personal and inappropriate”, and then he had an exchange of words with a steward.