Golf: Unheralded Chilean Pereira hits front at PGA Championship

Mito Pereira of Chile reacts to his birdie putt on the 14th green during the third round. PHOTO: AFP

TULSA, OKLAHOMA (REUTERS) - Unheralded Mito Pereira became the first Chilean to lead a major by surging to the top of the PGA Championship leaderboard midway through Saturday's (May 21) third round, as miserable conditions brought many of the world's best golfers to their knees.

Playing in just his second major, Pereira started the day one back but found himself alone with the lead after two holes when overnight leader Will Zalatoris bogeyed the first and he picked up a birdie at the second.

The 27-year-old then built a four-shot lead but gave half of that advantage back with back-to-back bogeys at eight and nine as he reached the turn at eight-under chased by twice Masters champion Bubba Watson.

He then made it three bogeys in a row with another dropped shot at the 10th.

Zalatoris, who carded an error-free second round on Friday, was not finding the dreary weather to his liking as he added more bogeys to his card at four, six and seven to slip three shots off the lead.

After dropping a shot at his second hole American Cameron Young was mounting a furious third round charge, hitting back with four birdies to join 2017 PGA Championship winner Justin Thomas on four-under.

First round leader Rory McIlroy's hopes of ending an eight-year major drought were also dwindling as the Northern Irishman tumbled down the leaderboard.

Twice a winner of the PGA Championship, McIlroy started five back but a double-bogey at six, back-to-back bogeys at seven and eighth and a horrific triple-bogey at the par three 11th spelt disaster dropping him 10 off the pace.

After dealing with heat and gusting winds through the opening two rounds, golfers faced dramatically different conditions on Saturday as rain and cold settled in over Tulsa.

With temperatures hovering around 32 deg C, players sweated out a wind-whipped second round; but on Saturday, with temperatures in the 10 deg C, mitts, sweaters and umbrellas were the order of the day.

McIlroy was far from the only big name to labour in the miserable conditions.

Tiger Woods had the third worst round of his career at a major, carding a nine-over 79 to leave him at the bottom of the leaderboard.

Playing his second event after a career-threatening car crash, Woods' struggles might have been expected.

But he was not alone. US Open champion and world number two Jon Rahm had a 76 and British Open winner and world number three Collin Morikawa signed for a 74.

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