From Brian Keogh in Detroit
Padraig Harrington was locked in a back nine battle with arch-rival Sergio Garcia for US PGA at Oakland Hills last night.
Three shots behind leader Ben Curtis after a sensational third round 66, Harrington used his incredible short game to go to the turn in one-under par and trail Curtis and Garcia by three shots on level par with nine hole to play.
Swede Henrik Stenson was alone in third on one-under with Garcia catching Curtis at the top after firing an eagle and two birdies on the front nine.
And the double Open champion was showing the kind of mental strength that European Ryder Cup skipper Nick Faldo believes will help him win even more majors.
Harrington birdied the second, bogeyed the fifth but then birdied the sixth to stay in touch before saving brilliant pars from greenside sand at the seventh and ninth.
Despite his claims that he was running on empty in Motor City, Faldo is convinced that the Dubliner now has the game to produce winning performances to order.
Less than six weeks before Europe seeks a fourth successive Ryder Cup win at Valhalla, Faldo said: “The way he performed at Birkdale, especially the back nine, was very impressive.
“He can win more majors now. It is a pretty obvious statement after he is Open champion twice.
“You question that even yourself - you don't want to be a one-hit wonder. But being a multiple-Major winner is a different mindset.”
Harrington showed his class as the action resumed in the weather delayed final major of the season when he scorched from 26th to tied fourth thanks to a sensational four under par 66.
Forced to get up and 4.30 am to resume his third round on the back nine at 7.15, he looked out of the running on three-over par but clawed his way up the leaderboard thanks to a red-hot putter.
Short with his approaches at the 10th, 11th and 12th due to the soft conditions, he soon found his range and reeled off four successive birdies.
At the 13th he rolled in a 10 footer before rapping in a 25 footer at the 501-yard 14th and a 20 footer at the 15th before draining a he rifled an eight-iron to six feet at the 16th and calmly rolled in the putt to get to five under for the day.
A birdie at the long par-three 17th and a par at the last would have given Harrington a new course record 64.
But missed from 10 feet at then bogeyed the last after his four-iron found greenside sand.
He said: “I wouldn’t believe I am dependable, I don’t know what will come out of the bag but hopefully it is more of this morning.”
Paired with Garcia and Korea’s Charlie Wie in the second last group, Harrington was three shots adrift of 2003 Open winner Curtis, who hit a 68 to lead by a shot from Stenson and JB Holmes on two under par.
After missing a 15 footer at the first, where Garcia birdied, Harrington two putted the par five second to get back to level.
He bogeyed the fifth when he could only chip to 30 feet after over shooting he green up got up and down from sand from 50 yards at the 294 yard sixth and then saved par from more sand at the seventh and ninth to remain in the hunt.
Graeme McDowell finished his delayed third round bogey-par for a 68 to share 13th place on four over.
But his hopes of winning the title ended when he bogeyed the first, fifth, eighth and 10th to fall back to eight-over, leaving him a massive 11 shots off the pace in a share of 24th.