Little-known duo set for major tussle

Get prepared for another big shock in major championship golf.

Get prepared for another big shock in major championship golf.

A month after world number 396 Ben Curtis produced the greatest upset in Open history, world number 169 Shaun Micheel and Chad Campbell, 58th but hardly a household name, share the lead going into the final round of the United States PGA at Oak Hill in Rochester, New York.

And unlike Curtis at Sandwich they do not have to worry about world number one Tiger Woods coming at them.

Woods is heading for his worst finish in a major since he turned professional in 1996 after a third-round 73 left him 13 strokes adrift.

He lies joint 43rd of the 70 players who had survived the halfway cut. His worst finish in a major as a pro is 29th – both at the US PGA in 1997 and two years ago.

Micheel, two ahead overnight, had still to tee off when Woods finished, but when the Orlando player without a single US Tour win to his name resumed with a bogey many might have expected him to continue a downward slide.

Instead, however, he seemed to take inspiration from Curtis’ amazing performance in his first-ever major and went four clear.

A hat-trick of birdies from the seventh opened up a three-stroke gap on the chasing pack, then he birdied the 372-yard 12th as well and holed from 15 feet for par at the next after a lady spectator had bizarrely picked up his ball when he flew the green from a fairway bunker.

Micheel, who is playing only his third major and his first US PGA, was close to a hole-in-one at the 181-yard 14th as the dream ride continued, but he was not quite out of sight of all of the chasing pack.

Fellow American Campbell, who missed the halfway cut in the first five of his eight majors but is being tipped for great things by tour insiders, finished birdie-birdie-bogey-birdie for a best-of-the-week 65.

And as soon as that was posted Micheel started to creak.

Previously best known for rescuing an elderly couple from a sinking car 10 years ago, Micheel still had a firm grip on things, but that went when he bogeyed the last three holes for a 69 and matching four under aggregate of 206.

Masters champion Mike Weir is in third place at one under following a 70, while South African Tim Clark is one further back.

Germany’s Alex Cejka is among those who need Micheel and Campbell to feel the heat and buckle over the final 18 holes to have a chance.

Now a member of the US circuit after coming through the qualifying school last September, the former Volvo Masters champion rolled in an 18-foot downhill birdie putt on the last – a 482-yard par four – to complete a 68 for a one over par aggregate of 211.

He is joint fifth with Ernie Els, Briny Baird and Billy Andrade.

“That was very great,” said Cejka. “I played good all day long and it’s always nice to finish with a birdie, especially on a hole as tough as that.

“I missed only one fairway and my ball-striking was suddenly there. I’ll just try to do the same tomorrow. If you keep the ball on the fairway it makes the rest a little bit easier.”

Woods has not broken par all week and never looked like doing so from the moment he teed off.

Bogeys at the first two holes were both the result of drives into the thick rough and when another, with a three-wood, dived into heavy rough again on the seventh Woods slammed the club back into the bag. He had yet to find a fairway off the tee.

As on the first and second holes, he had no hope of making the green and his chances of lifting his first major since the United States Open in June last year receded further.

He finally made a fairway at the ninth, only to bogey that as well to be out in a four-over 39. The birdies then came at the 14th and 15th, but short of the green in two at the 482-yard par four last he chipped over the green and dropped back to nine over.

“I’ve just been a touch off,” said Woods. “I’ve putted well, but par putts are not going to get it done. If you are a little off here that’s it.”

He had no criticism for the set-up of the 1995 Ryder Cup course – but he did for Carnoustie at the 1999 Open.

“This is the hardest fairest course we’ve ever played,” he commented. “Carnoustie was not fair.

That’s one fantastic course, but they just did not set it up fairly.” He finished 10 over par there – and was seventh!

“I’ve fought on every shot,” added Woods. “If I had bagged it (slang for giving up) I could have shot a million.”

Ireland’s Padraig Harrington, meanwhile, recovered from a scrappy start to shoot 69. But having survived the halfway cut with nothing to spare at eight over he was still only seven over.

Playing partner Gary Evans had a 71 for nine over, the same as Ian Poulter (72), while Paul Casey dropped three shots in the last two holes for a 75 and 13 over aggregate.

Leading British and Irish player at halfway was Luke Donald on five over and with four to play he had improved to four over and joint 25th. But then came a hat-trick of bogeys from the 15th before he matched Cejka’s birdie at the last for a 71 and six over total.

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