Jack Nicklaus birdied three straight holes on the back nine Saturday for a 3-under-par 69, leaving the rest of the field at the 52nd PGA Seniors' Championship in shambles - a distant eight strokes and more behind with only one round to play.
"The race horse has done crossed the finish line," said Jim Dent, virtually conceding the tournament to Nicklaus.Nicklaus, however, was reluctant to accept.
"You never know what's going to happen in this silly game," Nicklaus said. "But they don't have to tee off tomorrow if they don't want to. If they want to concede, that's fine."
Dent came within a shot of Nicklaus after nine holes, but collapsed on the back side and finished with a 3-over-par 75 and a three-round total of 212.
Nicklaus takes a 15-under-par 201 into Sunday's round. In second place is Bruce Crampton at 209 after shooting a 70 Saturday afternoon.
Third was George Archer at 6-under-par 210 following a 68 Saturday. Bob Charles also shot 68 and was at 6-under-par 211 going into the final round.
Tom Joyce dropped to 213 after shooting a 75. He had gone into the day in third place, six shots behind Nicklaus and one behind Dent.
Defending champion Gary Player carded a 68 over the par 72, 6,698-yard Champion Course at the PGA National Golf Club and was at 2-under-par 214. Chi Chi Rodriguez, the senior tour's leading money winner, carded a 70 for a three-round total of 215.
Lee Trevino shot his third straight par 72 for an even-par 216.
Heavy rains forced a two-hour delay in play midway through the leaders' rounds.
Crampton and Archer will be playing with Nicklaus Sunday, and Crampton was already worried about the gallery that would be following them.
"It's not going to be easy playing with him in a big lead tomorrow," said Crampton, who said he hasn't played with Nicklaus since at least 1976.
At Hilton Head Island, S.C., Ian Baker-Finch had the birdies, but that wasn't enough to worry Davis Love III, the leader through three rounds of the Heritage Classic.
Love, tied for the lead after the opening round, shot a 3-under 68 Saturday for a total of 12-under 201 at Harbour Town Golf Links.
Love, whose first of two PGA Tour victories came in the 1987 Heritage, leads Baker-Finch by 3 strokes and three others by 4 strokes.
Baker-Finch shot a 65 - the top round Saturday - after a second-round 64 that enabled him to tie the course record for the best 36-hole score. Jack Nicklaus set the record in 1975, going 66-63 the first two rounds.