Rory McIlroy got up and down nicely from sand for birdie at the 18th to ease his fears of not making the cut but the world No 1 may not be able to stop Jason Day or even Jordan Spieth from taking his world No 1 crown in Boston on Monday.
As a jaded looking Spieth missed back to back cuts for the first time in his pro career, carding a 73 to miss out by three shots on six over par, McIlroy’s three over 74 was good enough to survive by just one shot on two over.
He is now tied 59th and 14 shots off the pace and there wasn't much else in the way of good news in just just second start since June's US Open.
"I think it shows that I haven't really played much competitive golf," McIlroy said. "When I've given myself opportunities to get it close, then I'm not making putts.
"And I think I've had three or four three-putts in two days and just haven't really made anything. So it's been a bit of a struggle, more mentally, because I've just been trying to get something going. And there's nothing happening."
FedEx Cup leader Day posted a second successive 68 to share 10th spot but he’s six shots adrift of halfway leader Charley Hoffman, who shot an eight under 63 early in the day to lead by three shots on 12 under from Brendon de Jonge.
Day needs to win on Monday and hope McIlroy isn’t second alone to become No. 1 for the first time.
But there’s also a chance that Spieth could return to No 1. That will happen if McIlroy finishes worse than solo 11th and Day does not win.
Put that down to the vagaries of the system which will see McIlroy’s divisor increase this week from 44 to 45.
If you are interested in who is world No 1, the odds actually appear to favour Spieth over the two players who made the cut.
Playing just his second event since June because of his ankle injury, McIlroy had another poor day on the greens — 34 putts with two three-putts — as he dropped four shots in five holes from the 13th before than late, tap in birdie eased some of the pain.
As for Spieth, he admitted his mental game let him down and that he needs to work on his attitude as much as his game before he reappears in a fortnight for the BMW Championship in Chicago.
"I've done a lot of things I've never done positively this year. This is something I've never done that's negative," Spieth told AP. "Whatever is going on ... normally my mental game is a strength of mine. And it's something I feel like I have an advantage over other players on. These past two weeks it was a weakness for me.
"I need to walk with some cockiness in my step these next two tournaments," Spieth said. "I don't think I have to fix much in my game other than really work hard on my putting into Conway and then mentally I can control that. I can control walking with the cockiness, whether things are going good or bad, and that's what you have to have inside the ropes. And I'll bring it when we get to Chicago.”
Challenge Tour — Chris Selfridge is just one shot off the pace as he chases down Daan Huizing for his maiden pro title in the Cordon Golf Open in France on Sunday.
The Castledawson rookie shot a three under 67 to get to seven under but he will also be looking out for his room mate this week, Aussie Scott Arnold (67), as they go into the final round tied for second with Scotland’s David Law (70).
Selfridge and Arnold both made eagle at the long 11th on Saturday.
“I didn’t even play great but I played good enough,” said the Northern Irishman. “I took my chances when I get them so it’s a good score.
“Scott and I are good friends, actually we’re roommates this week so it’s good fun. It’s nice to share the game with a friend, and even better because he played quite well.”
Arnold added: “We had a good day today, everything was nice, it always feel good to play with someone that you know quite well, we could chat about few things.
“I saw ‘Foxy’s’ name on the leaderboard and he will be pretty dangerous tomorrow!”
After opening with a bogey at the par four first, 24 year old Huizing bounced back with five birdies en route to his four under par effort, good enough for an aggregate score of 202 at Golf Blue Green de Pléneuf Val André in Brittany.
In-form New Zealander Ryan Fox is a further shot adrift heading into Sunday’s final round following a joint best-of-the-day 64.
Selfdridge isn’t the only Irishman in with a shout as Derry’s Michael McGeady also shot 67 to be just three behind on five under.
Gareth Shaw’s 68 left him five adrift on three under with Muskerry’s Niall Turner back on level par after disappointing 73.
202 D Huizing (Ned) 68 68 66,
203 D Law (Sco) 64 69 70, Chris Selfridge (Nir) 69 67 67, S Arnold (Aus) 71 65 67,
204 R Fox (Nzl) 72 68 64,
205 R Enoch (Wal) 70 69 66, Michael McGeady (Irl) 67 71 67, B Virto Astudillo (Esp) 67 68 70, S Gros (Fra) 74 67 64, J Hahn (USA) 71 70 64, C Berardo (Fra) 73 67 65, J Sjöholm (Swe) 74 67 64,
207 Gareth Shaw (Nir) 70 69 68,
210 Niall Turner (Irl) 68 69 73
European Tour — Michael Hoey shot a level par 71 to slip eight shots behidn England’s Lee Slattery heading into the final round of the M2M Russian Open.
A four under par third round 67 moved Slattery to within touching distance of a first European Tour title in four years at Skolkovo Golf Club, two shots clear of Scot Craig Lee (66) and Argentinian Estalinslao Goya (67).
David Horsey, meanwhile, boosted his chances of a successful title defence as he moved to within three shots of the summit in outright fourth place, courtesy of a five under 66.
Brian Casey (73) and Niall Kearney (71) are tied 48th on level par but Damien McGrane fell back to two over after a 73.
200 L Slattery (Eng) 66 67 67,
202 C Lee (Sco) 67 69 66, E Goya (Arg) 68 67 67,
203 D Horsey (Eng) 67 70 66,
204 B Dredge (Wal) 66 66 72, O Henningsson (Swe) 69 68 67,
205 P Martin Benavides (Esp) 68 67 70,
206 J Scrivener (Aus) 70 66 70, D Van Tonder (RSA) 69 69 68, M Southgate (Eng) 68 69 69, B Evans (Eng) 67 68 71, D Drysdale (Sco) 68 69 69,
207 A Pavan (Ita) 70 69 68, K Horne (RSA) 67 70 70, D Vancsik (Arg) 69 68 70, L Jensen (Den) 70 69 68, J Heath (Eng) 70 66 71, S Jamieson (Sco) 65 71 71,
208 Michael Hoey (Nir) 71 66 71,
213 Niall Kearney (Irl) 70 71 72, Brian Casey (Irl) 72 68 73,
215 Damien McGrane (Irl) 70 72 73