SEA ISLAND, United States (AFP) - American Kevin Kisner birdied the last three holes to fire a six-under par 64 and seize a three-stroke lead after Saturday's third round of the US PGA's RSM Classic.
Kisner, who has four runner-up finishes this year but has still never won a PGA title, stood on 16-under 196 after 54 holes with countryman Kevin Chappell second on 199.
Northern Ireland's Graeme McDowell, coming off a victory last week in Mexico, shook off an epic first-hole blunder to fire a 65 and jump into contention at third on 200 with Germany's Alex Cejka another stroke off the pace.
Kisner lost playoffs this year at the Heritage, the Players Championship and the Greenbrier Classic and settled for second behind Scotsman Russell Knox at the World Golf Championships event in Shanghai earlier this month.
"I'm just looking forward to it," Kisner said of the final round. "I haven't been in this position all year, with a three-shot lead going into the final round, so it's something new for me. I'm excited."
Kisner fired the low round of the day and his PGA career to grab his first solo 54-hole PGA lead, starting with a six-foot birdie putt at the fifth and a seven-footer at the eighth.
After opening the back nine with a 12-foot birdie putt, Kisner birdied 13 before taking his lone bogey at 14.
Kisner dropped his approach at the par-4 16th three feet from the cup and made the short birdie to claim the lead alone. At the par-3 17th, he left his 6-iron tee shot inches from the hole for a tap-in birdie.
And on 18, Kisner curled in a 28-foot birdie putt to cap his run and stellar day.
"It's always nice to finish it off that way," Kisner said. "I played solid just like I have all week. I struck the ball nicely on the last hole. If you do that around here, you can make a lot of birdies, which is what you need to do."
McDowell, the 2010 US Open champion, got to the first fairway, marked the ball's position and picked it up and cleaned it, thinking in error that lift, clean and place rules were being used, as they had been for the past 11 PGA rounds and 17 of the past 18.
"They looked at me and I was thinking, 'Oh my goodness, you absolute idiot, what are you doing?'" said McDowell. "When you do something as silly as that, it was automatic pilot. That was one of the more automatic mistakes."
The one-stroke penalty left McDowell on the green with a 10-foot par putt and his mind pondering what he will tell his drinking buddies.
"It's a much better story if it has a happy ending," McDowell said. "I was standing over that 10-footer saying, 'This is going to be a better story with the lads in the bar if I make this and if not, I'm going to take a lot of abuse for it.'"
McDowell made the putt and made five birdies in a bogey-free round.
"It was a big 4 in hindsight," McDowell said. "It would have been a day changer. A bogey there could have made a real difference."