BETHESDA (Maryland) • Ernie Els, a four-time Major winner trying to end a three-year title drought, fired a six-under 65 and leaped into second place after Saturday's third round of the Quicken Loans National.
The South African eagled the 12th hole at Congressional Country Club, holing his second shot on the fly from 157 yards in the fairway with a nine-iron. He then ran off three birdies in a row starting with the par-five sixth on the course where he won the 1997 US Open.
"The way I'm hitting it now, the way I'm swinging, I'm getting more confidence," Els said.
"I've had a terrible time last year and a half in results but I feel good. I want to go out there and prove something to myself again. Nothing to anybody else."
Els finished on 13-under 200 after 54 holes. He was two strokes behind leader Billy Hurley, a 607th-ranked resident of nearby Annapolis who fired a bogey-free 67 to stand on 198, a three-round event record.
"I played pretty solid golf and I hope to do the same tomorrow," Hurley , in search of his first PGA crown, said.
"No lead is big enough. The idea is to make some more birdies. I don't think even par will get it done."
Els, a member at Congressional, managed his first bogey-free round in 115 PGA Tour rounds.
"Playing with a little confidence in the swing," Els said. "Found my swing and putting touch and just enjoying it. The putter was hot for me most of the round."
Spaniard Jon Rahm (70), a 21-year-old making his professional debut, was third on 201 with Americans Bill Haas (68) and Webb Simpson (68) fourth on 203 and 53-year-old Fijian Vijay Singh (71) sharing sixth on 205 with US rookie Harold Varner (70).
Rahm endured a roller-coaster round with five birdies and four bogeys. Not since Russell Henley at the 2013 Sony Open in Hawaii has a player won on his professional PGA debut.
"No matter what happens tomorrow, I feel like I belong here," Rahm said.
Singh, ranked 210th, could become the PGA's oldest winner and snap an eight-year title drought. Sam Snead, who was 52 when he won the 1965 Greater Greensboro Open, has the age mark now.