CARMEL, Ind. -- John Daly turned the theme of the 73rd PGA Championship into the making of a folk hero yesterday by continuing to hit some of the longest drives ever seen in competition while building a three-shot lead going into the final round.
The 25-year-old tour rookie showed no letup in his assault on the Crooked Stick Golf Club course by shooting a 3-under-par 69 for a 54-hole total of 11-under-par 205.
It was three better than tour veterans Kenny Knox and Craig Stadler, and four ahead of Bruce Lietzke. Five shots back are Bob Gilder, Andrew Magee and Nick Faldo. Gilder had the day's low round of 67.
"I just pray to God I can go one more day," said Daly. "If I can have one more day like this, I think I can bring this thing home."
Daly's lead was very nearly reduced to one shot after PGA of America officials reviewed the contention of television viewers that the player's caddie had committed a rules infraction on the 11th hole.
As Daly was lining up a 35-foot eagle putt on that hole, the caddie, Jeff Medlen, touched an area about a foot away from the cup with the bottom of the flagstick he was holding. According to the Rules of Golf, the line of a putt cannot be indicated by touching the green with any object.
As it turned out, Daly's eagle putt just missed the hole and he ended up with a birdie.
After Daly finished his round, officials whisked him away into a television truck, where he was asked what line he was using on the putt. Daly told officials he was aiming to the left of the cup, where in fact he started his putt.
Medlen had touched the green about a foot to the right of the cup. Officials ruled there was no infraction, saving Daly two strokes.
"It was a shock, but everything is OK now," said Daly.
Daly's round itself was an exhibition of strength that produced a crescendo of cheers from the estimated 25,000 spectators.
The 5-foot-11, 190-pound native of Arkansas kept producing drives of more than 300 yards, and iron shots that seemed to stay suspended in the air before landing.
The big question is whether Daly's big swing, which can tend toward wildness, and his composure, which in the past has sometimes lost out to anger, can hold up in the pressure of leading during the final day of a major championship.
He will be playing in the final twosome with Knox, who has won three tournaments in nine years on the tour. The relatively short-hitting Knox knows Daly will be out-driving him by as much as 60 yards or even more, but he also considers himself, along with most of his peers, one of the best putters and short-game specialists in the game.
"Hopefully, I'll frustrate the person I'm playing with with my putter," said Knox. "If I can hit about 14 greens in regulation tomorrow, I think I'll do pretty good."
By the rules
The text of PGA Rule 8-2b, which almost cost PGA Championship leader John Daly a two-stroke penalty yesterday:
"When the player's ball is on the putting green, the player, his partner or either of their caddies may, before but not during the stroke, point out a line for putting, but in so doing the putting green shall not be touched. No mark shall be placed anywhere to indicate a line for putting.
"Penalty for breach of rule: Match play -- Loss of hole; Stroke play -- Two strokes."