Lucas Herbert says combining a strong performance with the driver and his extraordinarily hot putter will be the only way he can reel in runaway PGA Championship leader Mito Pereira in the final round.

Herbert finished a distant eight shots behind Pereira after 54 holes after the Chilean fired an impressive 69 to climb to nine-under-par, three shots ahead of Matt Fitzpatrick (67) and Will Zalatoris (73) in a share of second.

Herbert somehow dug a 68 out of Southern Hills to move to one under, despite hitting just nine of 18 greens and nine of 14 fairways.

The PGA field battled through cold temperatures, strong winds and tough pin placements on Saturday which combined to embarrass star players such as Justin Thomas (74) and Bubba Watson (73), who fell to two under, as well as Rory McIlroy (74), who dropped to even par. Tiger Woods withdrew from the tournament, the first time he has done so during a Major, after his injured right leg appeared to be causing him significant pain.

Eighteen players shot rounds of 75 or worse, including Jon Rahm (75) and Woods (79).

Herbert gained 4.5 shots on the field with his putter on day three, according to strokes gained: putting data. He ranks No.1 on the greens through 54 holes of the year’s second Major. Herbert turned even par at the difficult Southern Hills before mixing three birdies with a long bogey on the back nine to at least put himself in the mix.

The world No.46 Herbert said he would need everything he’s got with the driver and the putter to have any hope of climbing up the leaderboard in Sunday’s final round. The statistics aren’t on Herbert’s side, given the past 33 major winners within four of the lead entering the final round.

“The putter is definitely going to be key tomorrow; I putted really nicely and picked up 4.5 shots on the field, so if I can keep that rolling into tomorrow and drive it in play then who knows what could happen,” Herbert told Australian Golf Digest. “If I get on a run and make some birdies but also save some pars when I’m out of position, it could be a fun final day.

The 26-year-old Herbert has never finished in a top 30 in a Major, with his best result a tie for 31st at the 2020 US Open at Winged Foot during the pandemic.

He said he would draw on some of his victories for inspiration, like his most recent triumph at the PGA Tour event in Bermuda in November when he came from four shots behind on a windy final day. Herbert also has two European Tour wins to his name.

“This is the first time I’ve been in contention at a Major, so it’s breaking new ground for me,” he said. “I don’t know what to expect, so hopefully I can take something I’ve learned from tournaments I’ve played well in before. But everyone up near the top of this leaderboard has won tournaments, too. It’ll be tough.

“Mito is a really good player; I wouldn’t expect him or any of those guys to come back to the pack. But I’m within eight of the lead and you never rule anything out.”

Meanwhile, Cameron Smith, Australia’s best hope pre-tournament with a world ranking of No.4, signed for a disappointing 73 to fall to one over.

Jason Day, the 2015 PGA Championship winner, was five over after a 72 while Marc Leishman (73) was six over alongside Cam Davis (72).

Kiwi Ryan Fox shot a 70 to remain at even par.