SPRINGFIELD, N.J. (AP) – Sweat streaming down his face, Phil Mickelson avoided a major meltdown in temperatures that hit 100 degrees. Davis Love III looked cool as can be, making a minor move that was enough to give him a share of the lead at the PGA Championship.

The year’s final major had all the trappings of a runaway when the third round started Saturday. Now it’s a shootout.

Mickelson lost command of his tee shots and his putting stroke, making only one birdie on a day when Thomas Bjorn matched the major championship record with a 63. Lefty’s last chance to keep the lead to himself ended when a 6-foot birdie putt grazed the edge of the cup for a 2-over 72.

“I struggled a little bit, but I fought hard to stay in the lead,” Mickelson said.

Love opened with two straight birdies to immediately apply the heat – not that Baltusrol wasn’t already enough of a sauna – then traded birdies and bogeys the rest of the way for his third consecutive 68. Winless in two years, Love is in the final group at a major for the first time since the 03 British Open.

“I’m playing with a lot of confidence, just like Phil,” Love said. “That’s why we’re both on top of the leaderboard.”

They were at 6-under 204.

And they had a lot of company right behind them.

Bjorn became the 20th player to shoot 63 in a major, and the first since Vijay Singh in the 2003 U.S. Open, by getting up-and-down from behind the 18th green for birdie. It was the third 63 at Baltusrol, where Jack Nicklaus and Tom Weiskopf did it in the first round of the 1980 U.S. Open.

“This 63 is not about records,” Bjorn said. “It’s about championships. And that’s all it means to me, that I got myself into position where I can play from here. And I’m going to try my hardest tomorrow again, and then we’ll see.”

Singh, trying to join Tiger Woods as the only back-to-back PGA champions in the stroke-play era, opened with 17 pars before he blasted out of a bunker to 3 feet for his only birdie and a 69, putting him just two shots behind with Steve Elkington (68), Stuart Appleby (69) and Pat Perez (68).

“It was hard work,” Singh said. “I told my caddie, I need one birdie.’ I cannot do 18 pars. I’ve never done that before, and I didn’t want to do that today. That puts me in good shape tomorrow.”

At the start of the third round, Mickelson had a three-shot lead, and only nine players were within five.

When he ambled off the 18th green, there were 17 players within five shots. And even Woods, who narrowly made the cut on Friday, couldn’t be ruled out.

Despite turning easy birdies into par 5s on the final two holes, Woods kept alive his hopes of winning his third major of the year with a 4-under 66. Still, he has never come back from greater than five shots on the PGA Tour, and he has won all 12 of his majors from the front.

“Guys have come back from 10 back in majors and have won,” Woods said.

But several guys ahead of him have plenty of experience winning the Grand Slam events.

It starts with Mickelson and Love, who have combined for 44 victories on the PGA Tour and 40 top 10s in the majors, although each has won just one major – Mickelson last year at the Masters, Love in the 1997 PGA Championship, made memorable by the rainbow over Winged Foot when he sank his final putt.

Bjorn has experience in the majors, too, but not the right kind.

The British Open two years ago at Royal St. George’s was his to win until he took three shots to get out of a pot bunker on the 16th hole and wound up one shot behind Ben Curtis.

“My golf is good enough,” Bjorn said. “The more often I put myself in that position, we all say one day it’s going to break your way. And I’m just going to keep trying.”

As for Curtis, he’s back in the hunt, too.

After making the cut for the first time in a major since his British Open title, Curtis lit up the back nine with four birdies for a 67 and was at 3-under 207, three out of the lead, and in a large group that included two-time U.S. Open champion Retief Goosen (69) and Lee Westwood (71).

All of this was made possible by Mickelson.

Playing his best golf in the majors this year, Mickelson looked to be in total command with a controlled cut off the tee and an ability to make every putt that mattered inside 10 feet.

But as thousands of fans crammed behind the ropes and waited to shower him with cheers, he delivered three bogeys in his first seven holes. One came from a flop shot that flew 25 feet by the cup on No. 2. Another came with a three-putt on the fifth, where he missed a 3-footer. Then he went from rough to bunker on the seventh and could only blast out to within 20 feet.

By then, the game was on.

Love started to lose ground by missing fairways, greens and putts – the recipe for bogeys at Baltusrol – until he rallied on the easier back nine with good tee shots. He hit 3-wood over the green for his second shot on the 650-yard 17th hole and got up-and-down for birdie.

“I’m confident and excited about the way I’m playing,” Love said.

He had forgotten what that felt like; Love has not seriously contended all year. His best results featured a good final round that allowed him to sneak up on the leaders, but never threaten them.

“It’s a fine line between not playing well and playing well, and I just needed to cross that line,” Love said.

Mickelson hardly lost hope.

“I got off to a poor start,” he said. “Guys were attacking and making birdies. Thomas Bjorn shot 7 under. I saw Davis in front of me making birdies. To still be in the lead is a big bonus.”

The only other time Mickelson had a share of the 54-hole lead in a major was at the Masters last year, where he quickly buried Chris DiMarco, then emerged the winner after a dramatic duel with Ernie Els.

Els is home in England recovering from knee surgery, but there are plenty of candidates to challenge for the final major championship of the year.

AP-ES-08-13-05 2024EDT

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