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June 25, 2017

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Unheralded Wiesberger in contention at PGA

LOUISVILLE, Kentucky -- If Austrian golfer Bernd Wiesberger can sustain the most stunning week of his career for one more day, he might continue a history of fairy-tale winners at the PGA Championship.

The unheralded 28-year-old from Vienna, twice a winner on the European Tour, matched Saturday's low round with a shocking six-under par 65 to stand one stroke off the pace of top-ranked Rory McIlroy entering Sunday's final round of the year's last major tournament.

Wiesberger, ranked 70th in the world, had never cracked par at a major in his career until this week and only at last year's British Open did he make the cut.

But Wiesberger opened with back-to-back 68s and stands on 12-under 201, good enough to play alongside three-time major winner McIlroy in Sunday's final group.

"I've not been in contention in a major championship, so I don't know how it's going to turn out," Wiesberger said. "I'm just trying to enjoy as I did today. I was in a great situation and I felt quite calm. From now on, it's just a bonus, really."

Markus Brier's share of 12th at the 2007 British Open is the best major result for an Austrian, a distinction he might be about to lose.

But more than that, Wiesberger could follow a legacy of surprise champions offered up at the PGA.

Since the event went to stroke play in 1958, only three players with one or fewer made cuts in a major were as high on the leaderboard as Wiesberger — eventual winners Shaun Micheel in 2003, Rich Beem in 2002 and John Daly in 1991.

"I've never played well in the Majors," Wiesberger said. "I've played well in the other bigger events in Europe and won a couple. It's not the same, but you kind of get a feeling for what you have to do, how you have to handle yourself. It's just on a different level. But things are still the same. You're still out there with your caddie trying to do the best you can."

Wiesberger, who shared 64th at last year's British Open in his only prior made cut at a major, won the 2012 Lyoness Open and Ballantine's Championship. This year on the European Tour his best showings were runner-up efforts at the Malaysian Open and Lyoness Open.

"I know what I'm capable of doing," Wiesberger said. "I know if I drive the ball well and don't get ahead of myself, I can play good golf. I was kind of surprised that I was really calm out on the first tee box. We had great crowds there. And hitting the first tee shot down the center obviously was a bit of a relief."

Wiesberger hopes his run might spark greater interest in golf in his homeland, and in watching his efforts.

"We have around a 100,000 golfers in the golf clubs, so I would reckon about 90,000 would be (watching) on the TV by now," he said. "At least I hope so."

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