After failing to win any of the past six majors, the US held the top five spots heading into the final round of the PGA Championship with unheralded duo Brendan Steele and Jason Dufner sharing the lead at seven-under-par.
Steele, who had not played a hole on the USPGA Tour before this year, is ranked 121st in the world, but he fired a confident four-under 66 at Atlanta Athletic Club, while, all around him, many of the sport’s elite struggled.
Steele has at least got a USPGA Tour win under his belt, he was victorious in the Texas Open in April, which is more than the 34-year-old Dufner, who has played most of his golf on the second-tier Nationwide Tour, can claim. Dufner carded a 68.
Britain’s Luke Donald and Lee Westwood, the top-ranked players in the world but neither yet to secure a major title, both looked well poised to mount challenges.
However, like so many this week, their prospects were hampered by misfortune on the tricky final four holes.
Instead, another US rookie, Keegan Bradley, was a stroke behind the leaders after showing intense concentration through his round of 69.
Veteran Americans, Scott Verplank and world No. 5 Steve Stricker, carded matching 69s and were respectively two and three shots behind the pacesetting pair.
Europe’s closest challenger was Dane Anders Hansen, whose consistent week continued with an even-par 70 to follow his rounds of 68 and 69.
Hansen is four strokes off the pace along with yet another unfancied American, DA. Points (71).
If there is to be an unprecedented seventh consecutive non-American win in a major then the best bet looks to be Masters champion Charl Schwartzel of South Africa, who achieved a rarity of a bogey-free round on the challenging Highland course as he put himself in contention with a 66.
Tied with Schwartzel, five strokes off the lead, were Swede Robert Karlsson (67) and Australians Adam Scott (70) and John Senden (72).
However, Saturday belonged to the Americans, who seemed to be as surprised as everyone else to find themselves leading a major at the end of the third round.
Dufner, who cuts a casual figure on the course with his lank hair and slight paunch, ended his round in impressive fashion — making a mockery of the difficult 15th and 16th where he made birdies and then showing exactly how to handle the difficult water-protected 18th green with a confident par.
Also lurking in contention was American David Toms, winner in 2001 when the PGA Championship was last held here, who fired a best-of-the-day 65.