American Steve Stricker eagled two of the first five holes on his way to a three-under par 69 on Saturday to maintain a three-shot lead after the third round of the $6.2 million Memorial tournament.
Stricker eagled the par-4 second from the fairway and par-5 fifth holes to boost what had been a three-shot lead when the day began.
"It was a perfect start," Stricker said. "Holing one out at the second hole and then making another eagle at No. 5. You couldn't ask for anything more, really."
Stricker pushed his lead as large as six strokes on the field at the key US PGA tune-up event for the US Open in two weeks, but bogeys at the par-5 15th and par-3 16th holes left him on 12-under par 204 through 54 holes.
American Jonathan Byrd also fired a 69 to stay three strokes adrift with Americans Matt Kuchar and Brandt Jobe on 208 and Northern Ireland's Rory McIlroy and Americans Shaun Micheel and Mark Wilson on 209.
Stricker would rank a victory at the Memorial, hosted by 18-time major champion Jack Nicklaus, among the greatest titles of his career if he can remain atop the leaderboard for 18 more holes.
"This would rank right up there, no question," Stricker said. "It's a great tournament. It's Jack's tournament. He's a friend, greatest player of all time, and to win his tournament would be pretty special."
Stricker is seeking his 10th US PGA crown, his first since defending a title at last July's John Deere Classic. His first career triumph was at the 1996 Kemper Open.
On the second hole, Stricker used a 3-wood and then holed his approach with a sand wedge from 114 yards. On the fifth, he hit another 3-wood off the tee then dropped a 3-iron shot from 230 yards to eight feet and made another eagle.
"Things are going my way. That's what I was thinking," said Stricker, who had a hole-in-one on Friday.
After a bogey on the par-4 sixth, he responded with birdies at the par-5 seventh and par-3 eighth. But then came a string of pars and two stumbles down the stretch that kept Stricker from stretching his lead before the last round.
"All of a sudden, things seemed pretty hard, when at the start of the day things were really going my way, but I understand that's the nature of this game and golf in general," Stricker said.
"Just kind of a little disappointing that I kind of let it slip away on the back nine and didn't really finish the round like I had hoped.
"But all in all, a good day, 69 around here is a good score, still got a three-shot lead, so I'm in good position heading into Sunday."
Byrd played the front nine at two-under and opened and closed the back nine with birdies but took his lone bogey of the day at the par-5 11th.
Kuchar charged into contention with a birdie-filled front nine, sinking back-to-back birdies at the second and third, taking a bogey at four before reeling off four birdies in a row and closing the front nine with a par.
Kuchar began the back nine with a birdie but stumbled with a bogey at the par-5 15th and another at 18.
"A little disheartening," Kuchar said. "Stricker was matching me shot for shot out there. I felt like I really had it going and a little disappointing to drop a couple coming in. But it's a tough golf course."
McIlroy endured a roller-coaster round, including a double-bogey at the par-3 fourth and an eagle at the par-5 15th. He birdied the par-4 sixth and 13th holes but took a bogey at the par-5 11th.
"Even though I didn't play my best stuff, I'm still in a decent position going into tomorrow and that's all you can ask for," McIlroy said.
Scores on Saturday after the third round of the $6.2 million US PGA Memorial tournament (USA unless noted):
204 - Steve Stricker 68-67-69
207 - Jonathan Byrd 71-67-69
208 - Matt Kuchar 69-71-68, Brandt Jobe 71-68-69
209 - Mark Wilson 70-73-66, Shaun Micheel 69-73-67, Rory McIlroy (NIR) 66-72-71
210 - Marc Leishman (AUS) 73-71-66, Kevin Chappell 69-73-68, Troy Matteson 73-69-68, Hunter Mahan 69-72-69, Gary Woodland 72-69-69, Rod Pampling (AUS) 72-66-72
211 - Scott Piercy 75-67-69, Brett Wetterich 70-71-70, Dustin Johnson 68-73-70
212 - John Senden (AUS) 71-70-71, Luke Donald (ENG) 70-69-73
213 - Camilo Villegas (COL) 73-69-71, Charl Schwartzel (RSA) 72-71-70
214 - Brian Davis (ENG) 73-71-70, Angel Cabrera (ARG) 70-73-71, Phil Mickelson 72-70-72, Aaron Baddeley (AUS) 71-68-75
215 - Nick O'Hern (AUS) 73-72-70
216 - KJ Choi (KOR) 70-73-73
217 - Alex Cejka (GER) 71-72-74, Brendon de Jonge (ZIM) 71-73-73, Eduardo Molinari (ITA) 72-69-76
218 - Charlie Wi (KOR) 73-72-73, Arjun Atwal (IND) 73-71-74, Ryuji Imada (JPN) 71-70-77
219 - Ernie Els (RSA) 71-73-75
221 - Robert Karlsson (SWE) 74-71-76, Vijay Singh (FIJ) 73-72-76