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Unfancied Chilean leads PGA Championship

Unheralded Mito Pereira skidded out of control just like so many other contenders in the wind and cold of Southern Hills before getting back on course at just the right time in the US PGA Championship.

Pereira steadied himself with three birdies over the last six holes, the final one from just outside 25 feet for a one-under 69.

That gave the Chilean a three-shot lead over Matt Fitzpatrick and Will Zalatoris.

For Tiger Woods, his slide on a battered right leg seemed to last all day in what turned out to be his last round.

Woods withdrew for the first time in a major as a pro. He limped around Southern Hills for a 79, his worst score ever in the PGA Championship.

At stake for Pereira is a chance to become the first PGA Tour rookie to win a major since Keegan Bradley in the 2011 PGA Championship.

“I was playing really good and suddenly I made four bogeys in five holes,” the 27-year-old said.

“It was a tough place to be at that moment.

“But just found myself from 13 on. Those holes are pretty tough. So really happy how I ended up playing. The birdie on 18 was a bonus.

“Just happy to be in this position.”

There were missed opportunities for so many others on a rough day featuring a wind out of the north that made Southern Hills play entirely different.

Former PGA champion Justin Thomas went 12 holes without a birdie, and then he gave it back with a bogey on the closing hole for a 74.

Two-time Masters champion Bubba Watson looked shaky as ever on the greens, making three bogeys over his last four holes for a 73.

They went from the cusp of contention to seven shots behind.

Rory McIlroy had a six-hole stretch around the turn that he played in six over – and that even included a birdie – for a 74 to fall nine shots back.

Pereira, the top player on the PGA Tour’s developmental circuit last year, was at nine-under 201.

He will be in the final group of his first PGA Championship – and only his second major – with Fitzpatrick, who birdied his last two holes for a 67 to quietly sneak into contention.

Only 16 players remained under par at Southern Hills, a list that included Webb Simpson, who shot a 65.

Lucas Herbert is the leading Australian at one under, and eight back of Pereira, following a fine round of 68.

Cameron Smith is one over after a 73.

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