Robert Allenby stormed home with a late rush to vault within one stroke of English leader Lee Westwood after the third round at the $US9.
5 million Players Championship on Saturday.
The 38-year-old Australian seemed destined to finish the day several strokes behind, but an eagle at the par-five 16th lifted his spirits and he followed it with a birdie at the famous par-three 17th at the Sawgrass TPC.
Allenby would obviously love to post the fifth Australian victory here, after Steve Elkington (1991 and `97), Greg Norman (`94) and Adam Scott (2004), but he has a lot of work to do for that to happen.
“Overall I played well all day,” said the Florida-based Victorian.
“There were a few mistakes but it’s going to happen around this course.”
He is alone in second place on 13-under with one round left, while Englishman Lee Westwood leads on 14-under after a steady 70.
Italian Francesco Molinari and American’s Lucas Glover and Ben Crane are two strokes behind, while American Heath Slocum is among a group three back.
Slocum led after 12 holes, before dropping four shots in the final six holes, including a double bogey at the par-three 17th, where his tee shot came up short in a watery grave.
Allenby was playing the 13th when he noticed that Slocum was five ahead.
“I was thinking I need to pull my finger out, at least get within two or three strokes,” Allenby said.
“All you can do is play your own golf but I knew I had to push it a little bit just to get within reach.”
He helped his cause with a four-iron to four metres at the par-five 16th, before reading the right-to-left break perfectly and converting the eagle putt.
A wedge to about the same distance at the 17th led to birdie, and he made a rock solid tap-in par at the last.
World No.2 Phil Mickelson gave himself an outside chance, jumping within five strokes after a 66, but Tiger Woods has no hope of winning, 10 behind.
Australians Greg Chalmers (70) and Adam Scott (71) are equal 24th, eight shots back.
Chalmers had a sickening finish, a double bogey at the final hole, where he pitched his second shot from the right rough all the way across the fairway into the water hazard on the other side.