Two months after Lee Westwood lost a ball in branches when in contention for the US Open, Rory McIlroy had tree trouble when one off the lead at the USPGA Championship.

In his case, though, it did not signal the end of his chances. After starting his third round at Kiawah Island with back-to-back birdies, the 23-year-old Northern Irishman was involved in a search for his ball at the 390-yard third.

It needed a television replay to show that it had lodged eight feet off the ground and whereas Westwood could not recover from his misfortune McIlroy, having reached up to retrieve, took a penalty drop, pitched on to seven feet and made it to save par.

That kept last year's US Open champion at four under par, alongside Tiger Woods and Carl Pettersson and one behind Vijay Singh, at 49 trying to become the oldest major champion in history.

The Fijian was part of a three-way tie at halfway in the season's last major, but set off again with a 14-foot birdie putt while playing partner Woods missed from 12. It was still windy on the Ocean Course, but nothing like it had been on a Friday that saw more scores in the nineties than in the sixties - just Singh's 69.

The scores reflected that. England's Justin Rose and David Lynn and Irishman Padraig Harrington all leapt out of the pack by going to the turn in 32. Rose began only 47th after his desperately disappointing 79 on Friday and climbed all the way to seventh before undoing a lot of his great work over the closing stretch.

Runner-up with Paul Casey in the 2003 World Cup at the course, Rose bogeyed the 12th, missed the green at the short 17th and three-putted the last for a third bogey, a 70 and two over aggregate.

Harrington, trying with all his might to get back in the Ryder Cup reckoning after captain Jose Maria Olazabal's words on Wednesday that he needed to do something extraordinary, also could not continue his fine start to the third round.

The Dubliner, winner in 2008, missed from under three feet at the 10th for a double bogey that took him down from sixth to 18th on level par. Lynn, with one win in 370 European Tour starts, was finally playing his first major in America and making the most of it.

When he sank a 12-foot putt at the long 16th for his sixth birdie of the day - there was also a bogey on the 10th on his card - he was in a tie for eighth on two under. Europeans were everywhere on the leaderboard. Ian Poulter and Jamie Donaldson stood three under after three and two holes respectively, Graeme McDowell birdied the second and sixth to be alongside Lynn.