LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Rickie Fowler wore purple for the third round of the 96th P.G.A. Championship. A few years ago, the purple might have had a brilliant fuchsia hue or maybe something magenta. It would have been something eye-catching, for sure.
Perhaps amethyst, mulberry, orchid or lavender.
But Saturday his pants and shirt were just a standard purple, with a lot of plain white accents and a tiny flash of muted yellow mixed in.
The shoes? White. The hat? White.
How our little Rickie is growing up.
Fowler, 25, has been serious in his approach to the major championships this year. A renowned, top-level player without a transcending, top-level result, Fowler has tried to put the focus on the dull numbers of a dazzling scorecard rather than the vivid tints of his wardrobe, which never truly masked a golf game that was a shade below the upper echelon.
The conservative tactics have worked as Fowler has compiled the best record to par of any player — at 29 under — in 15 competitive rounds in the majors this season.
But the results of such a high level of golf have not been entirely satisfying. Fowler was tied for fifth at this year’s Masters, tied for second at the United States Open and again tied for second at the British Open.
With one round remaining at the P.G.A. Championship, the season’s final major, Fowler is once again poised to cloak his career with a defining achievement. But the road will not be any easier than it was in the previous three majors. He will have to overcome a formidable group of established stars and upstart newcomers who spent Saturday boldly charging at the tournament leader, Rory McIlroy.
Wiesberger, who is 70th in the world rankings, is playing in his third P.G.A. Championship, but it is the first time he has made the cut at the event. Wiesberger also missed the cut at the British Open and the United States Open this year. But Saturday, Wiesberger, who has two career victories on the European Tour, finished his round with three successive birdies. He had six in the round and no bogeys.
His most spectacular shot came on the 17th hole, where his approach with an iron from 167 yards nearly toppled into the hole and came to a stop six inches from it for an easy birdie.
“I’ve never been in contention in a major championship, so I don’t know how it’s going to turn out tomorrow,” Wiesberger said. “From now on, it’s just a bonus, really.”
Tied for fourth at 10 under par were Phil Mickelson, whose 67 kept him in the chase for the title, and Jason Day, whose eventful day featured his own sartorial stylings, which included rolling up his pants legs to thigh level.
Fowler, who will play in the second-to-last group Sunday, began the third round two strokes off McIlroy’s lead after two topsy-turvy rounds. The hard-swinging Fowler had three bogeys in each of his first two rounds at Valhalla Golf Club, setbacks he countered with 13 birdies — eight in the second round.
It was Fowler’s classic boom-or-bust style of play, but on Saturday he found a more stable, sturdy game and backed it up with an even-headed stoicism. When makable birdie putts on the 15th and 16th holes lipped out, Fowler went to the succeeding tee each time and ripped a thunderous drive down the middle of the fairway. He fired at pins in his approach shots but was cautious not to miss in a deadly spot.
At the par-5 18th hole, Fowler’s drive narrowly avoided the water hazard on the right of the fairway, but his approach shot from 190 yards stopped 36 feet from the hole. His eagle putt missed by a half inch, but two putts gave him a last birdie.
“Patience is the key for me now,” Fowler said after his round. “And it was a big thing today. I’m following a process for each shot, and that has me looking forward to tomorrow as well. It’s the next step.”
McIlroy, chasing his second major championship of the year, resolutely fended off the ever-increasing number of challengers vying for the lead. He was paired with Day, who made an unthinkable par on the second hole after hooking his tee shot into the tall grass near a creek.
Removing his socks and shoes, then rolling up his pants, Day had to ford the creek, and from there he hacked out a recovery shot. He then put the ball on the green and made par.
But Day faded a bit as McIlroy regained his momentum with towering drives and precise iron play. McIlroy had four birdies and just one bogey on the back nine to close with a flourish.
“One stroke is not the biggest lead I’ve had heading into a final round of a tournament,” McIlroy said. “But I’m still in control of the tournament. It’s a great position to be in. I saw people making runs at me — saw Rickie coming on — so I just wanted to be in the lead or be tied for the lead. So I’m pleased.”
Mickelson seemed to squander the good vibes of a strong opening nine when he had successive bogeys on the 11th and 12th holes, but he rallied with three consecutive birdies beginning with the 14th hole and finished the day with a four-under 67.
Fowler said he was looking forward to playing with Mickelson.
“We’ll have a good time, that’s for sure,” he said.
Fowler has in the past dressed in some mighty brassy outfits for his Sunday rounds — often draped in head-to-toe orange. This year, he has backed off the fluorescents for the final round. Sunday’s wardrobe could be another statement of one kind or another.