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Day of the rookies as Steele holds nerve

other Updated: Aug 14, 2011 23:40 IST

With unknown and less-experienced leaders, favourites lurking within striking distance and a closing crucible among golf's most fiendish, last-day drama was set on Sunday at the PGA Championship.

Americans Brendan Steele, a PGA rookie in his first Major, and Jason Dufner, seeking his first victory after six PGA seasons, shared the 54-hole lead on seven-under par 203, one stroke ahead of another US rookie, Keegan Bradley.

Atlanta Athletic Club's last hole, the water-guarded 18th, has been the toughest of the week, with the tricky 265-yard par-3 15th just behind. They bookend what many players have rated among the hardest closing runs they see.

“Those holes can really get you,” Steele said. “Any shot can get you, even if you hit the middle of the fairway. A bogey might win it. But you may need to make a 4 or a 3 to win it. In that case it's going to be really tough to do. “Wishy-washy play is not going to get it done.”

Steele could become the first man to win in his Major debut since Ben Curtis at the 2003 British Open and the first on US soil to win a Major debut since Francis Ouimet at the 1913 US Open.

Scott Verplank, a 47-year-old seeking his first triumph in a decade, was on 205 while World No. 5 Steve Stricker, who matched a Major record by opening with a 63, was on 206. Each American is seeking his first Major crown.

Two familiar faces
Only two major winners are in the top dozen on the scoreboard, reigning Masters champion Charl Schwartzel of South Africa and American David Toms, whose lone Major came at the 2001 PGA on the same course. Both were on 208.

The biggest last-round comeback for victory in PGA Championship history was the seven-stroke rally by John Mahaffey in 1978, which leaves the door open for 27 players at par or lower entering the final round.

Australian Adam Scott was in a pack five strokes off the pace. While Tiger Woods failed to make the cut, his ex-caddie Steve Williams, fired last month by the 14-time Major winner, was with his new boss in the title hunt.

World No. 1 Luke Donald and World No. 2 Lee Westwood both open six strokes off the pace, the Englishmen each seeking their first Major crown.

American veteran Jim Furyk, a Saturday leader at one stage, found the water on 15 and 18 for double bogeys and stumbled back to stand one one-under as well.